Julie Adams & the Mountain Stage Band(Gadfly 232)
A review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange by
It's thirteen years since the Mountain Stage radio show went on air. And Julie Adams has been there from the very beginning, not only backing up guests, but also performing at least one song on almost every show. As the show's 'singer in residence', she has sung more than 400 songs. The songs used on this CD were recorded over the last four years and represent a choice of some of Adams' old favorites and other songs that she learned from musicians playing on the show.
She has got all the right ingredients to make a wonderful CD: good songs, excellent musicians, and a spectacular voice---nay, more than that, a voice to fall in love with. Maria Muldaur once said of her own voice, that with time it turned from a tiny flute into a saxophone. I don't know what Adams' voice sounded like years ago, but nowadays she has got a saxophone too and more than just a hint of Maria Muldaur, Tracy Nelson, or Bonnie Raitt.
The band, consisting of Bob Thompson (piano), Michael Lipton (guitar), Ron Sowell (acoustic guitar, harmonica), John Kessler (bass), Ammed Solomon (drums) and Larry Groce (harmony vocals), delivers the perfect setting for Adams. The music is impeccable (although some might perceive it as unspectacular), but most importantly the band provides the room for Adams' voice and that is why it can shine so brillantly. Cottonmouth is the big surprise on this CD for me, because I never would have thought it possible to make more of a Seals & Crofts song than something 'nice', but here is the proof; it swings and it sounds like an instant classic. The two tracks written by Chris Smither (Take It All & Up on the Lowdown) seem to have been written for Adams. And if not, she has made them her own with these two performances.
Adams sounds best when she sings bluesy or jazzy tunes --- that's where she can use the full range of her voice. Other highlights include Marvin Gaye's Trouble Man and the torch-like You Might Take It Right (written by band member Ron Sowell).
I have to admit that I think the folkier tunes like Urge For Going and Keep Your Distance suit Adams a little less, but that may be because I believe the definitive versions of these two songs have already been done by Tom Rush and Richard Thompson, respectively. (But then I'm a big fan of these two and so I might be the wrong guy to judge the real quality of these versions.) Anyway what I'd really like to tell you is don't just listen to the music, listen to the voice. But I'm starting to repeat myself.
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Edited by David Schultz