Plunge!

Joules Graves

(JG-1112)

Rabble Rouser Records
P.O. Box 153
Lopez Island, WA 98261

Harmony Ridge Music
P.O. Box 995
El Granada, CA 94018
hrmusic@rahul.net
(800) 611-4698

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by David Schultz
(schultz@alum.mit.edu)

Joules Graves takes the activist, world-beat woman motif of Ani DiFranco and Laura Love, wraps herself around it, and develops it even more. She began performing at a six-month encampment at Gas Works Park in Seattle to protest the Gulf War. It was there she wrote her first song, Boot Bush in the Tush. On her third release, Plunge!, her songwriting continues to grow.

DiFranco moved from Buffalo to New York City to explore herself and her music; Graves moved from Chicago to a cabin in the San Juan Islands of the Pacific northwest, living simply without running water or electricity, to explore hers. Themes of natural living are examined in Land of Fake Fires, a slow piece with finger-picked guitar backed by violin. In this song, Graves finds irony in her observation that the color spectrum found in an oil slick on a puddle reminds her of the natural rainbows in the sky. At the end, she recognizes that Mother Earth is alive underneath the concrete of the city and one day will rise again. In contrast, People of the Earth Tribe is a call to environmental activism with Joules' djembe drum backing her vocals.

Wamba (The Big Bottom Belly Boobie Goddess) is a natural follow-up to "Big Woman" from her second album "Waterfall Child", in which she declares her independence from diet fads, lipsuction, and breast reduction surgery. Outta Control is a folk-rap a la DiFranco's The Slant. In it Graves decries the homogenization of America with the chant that

Some people would have a heart attack
If they heard something stronger than Musak
So they buy their music Cheez-Whiz brand
Over-processed and comfortably bland.
Corporate Clones takes a swipe at those who play the corporate business schtick. Perhaps the most catchy melody on the album is Dance with the Children. Joules describes this song in one word: "Celebratory!"

Graves can sing sweet love songs as well as she can play the role of angry female. I Like You is a funky, sexy romp with a big booming bass played by producer Bruce Harvie. Honeysuckle was recorded on a vintage 1936 RCA microphone, giving this track a soft, classic vocal sound. Substitute piano for acoustic guitar and you might even think it was a jazz standard. Teaching My Heart exclaims,

And it's true when they say you can't accept someone else
Until you can truly accept yourself
We're all learning how to accept ourselves.

Most of the songs on Plunge! highlight Joules's vocals, acoustic guitar, and drums, supprting them with sparse arrangements. The production is smart and appropriate for the subject matter so when an electric bass or a Hammond organ enters the mix, it contrasts with the earlier songs, enhancing the effect. Plunge! blends world-beat, funk, punk, and rap with contemporary folk and provides the listener with an enjoyable, danceable, 52 minutes of music.

Edited by Kerry Dexter
(riosur@aol.com)

Copyright 1997, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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