3001 S. Federal Blvd.
PO Box 205, Loretto Station
Denver, CO 80236
A review written for Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Shawn Linderman
If I had to pick a single word to describe Julie Hoest's voice, soothing would have to be it. Julie is predominantly a blues stylist, but instead of leaving the listener nodding in agreement about the hurts, she somehow goes beyond the pain. Whether attributable to her sweet vocal clarity or the subtle manipulations of tonality, she pushes the emotional content of the lyrics to a softer, prettier plane. Whatever the mechanics, the result is a very warm and contentment-inducing album.
Ride the Rail swings from mellow verses to a foot-tapping chorus. The three-verse, one chorus progression is nicely advanced from guitar (Julie) to tinkling mandolin (Ellen Audley) to meandering banjo (Hereford Percey), with everyone joining on the chorus. Features nice sax on the bridge by Pamela Robinson.
Julie slips into some fine slide guitar work, augmented by Mary Flower's dobro, on I'll Call It the Blues. Rebecca Leonard and John Magnie toss in fine harmonica and piano on this soft and bluesy tune of loneliness.
On the Other Side has a Caribbean islands idyllic sway feel and is a very catchy tune.
Sailboat in the Moonlight is in the vein of those classic piano-bar blues numbers, lovingly enhanced by the engaging clarinet of Harry Grainger.
Nothing So Wretched is a somber lament of death, but also a promise of love so strong that death can't take it away. And if you're still waiting for Carla Skiaky to come out with another CD, you can hear her on concertina on this tune.
Holes in the Bottoms of Her Shoes in an informal jazz number, with fingersnapping providing the beat. The story of a woman in hard times, the focus on vocals is appropriate. Harsh imagery against a sparse music background lends it greater impact.
The Leaving Kind is Julie's nod to the urge to be footloose. Hoest's slow/fast one-two syncopated rhythmic guitar I personally find quite mesmerizing. It's simple, but really difficult to duplicate if you try to hum or "la-dee-dah" along with it.
Gone Fishin', which doesn't contain those words, is a hopeful blues rendition of the "waiting for my man to come back" variety. Hoest lazily stretches syllables early, then finishes lines with clear vibrato flourishes here--again taking the blues to a happier plane.
A touch of brilliant writing graces Shoot for the Moon. It opens with "the most you'll ever grow, is as far as you want to go." A lovely, gentle tune of encouragement.
Julie pays tribute to her major guitar-playing influence, Mississippi John Hurt, on the traditional Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight, which she relates in the liner notes as having learned from a 1966 Hurt recording.
Hannah Alkire rolls us gently on the waves of her cello as Julie sings about breaking free of too much love and too many restraints in Someday. Then, with equal facility, she turns around this sentiment in the closing track, I'm Coming Home.
So often the attraction of the blues seems to be its pandering to the masochist inside us all, the tendency of humans to wallow in pity as if to say "I hurt, therefore I am." Julie Hoest's version of the blues is "I hurt, but I am"--a much more positive and life-affirming attitude. With Where I'm Standing, she gives us a new and wonderful land to explore.
Edited by David N. Pyles