The promo buzz behind Julie Clark concerns itself with her GLBT (Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transexual) involvements, which is fair enough, though the claims of poetic bluntness are completely unwarranted—her lyrics are in fact carefully indited to embrace the searching heart with a sense of romance and honesty that should be native to every orientation. That's her point. She's also cited by NPR as "edgy". Well, I gave up on NPR (No Problems with Republicans) long ago during the KPFA / KPFK / Pacifica scandals, so their questionable judgments are better left kicked to the curb.
Clark needs none of that anyway. She has excellent writing skills, arranging finesse that expands the genre, a sonic homogeneity luxuriant and edged with the prairie, and a marvelous voice that's perky, defiant, and a bit sad while imbued with hope and tenacity. She also put together a very complementary band sounding like L.A. session vets, though they aren't (and dig that Al Koopery New York organ from John Toomey flanking the slo-burn guitar of Tom Jones). Had she appeared on the Olivia label back when it was championing women's music, she could've singlehandedly saved that moribund imprint…something even Cris Williamson couldn't manage (of course, it was a pretty pathetic business venture anyway, so…)
There's a soft jazzy side to Clark as well, as on I'd Do 'Em All, reminiscent of Joni Mitchell (though I could've done without the studio self-laudation), a good deal of Lesley Duncan pops up alongside a bit of Victoria Williams here and there, but the singer is distinctive unto her own. Each song carries a narrative guaranteed to reach down into memories you'd long forgotten, to spark up a smothered sense of freedom and future, and to overturn apathy and dispiritedness while pondering the heartaches of the past.
This is Clark's second release, so put her on the shelf with Marc Cohn, Cliff Eberhart, Traci Chapman, Suzanne Vega, David Wilcox, and the circle of artists are keeping the folk style alive, well, and vibrant. If she doesn't arrive at their successes, it won't be for lack of talent and integrity but rather a market as worthy of her criticisms as the more immediate concerns chronicled in Change Your Mind. Almost every cut here belongs on the radio…or rather, they belong on the radio that used to be, back when DJs chose the material so damn well, rather than some Brooks Brothers moron with a tin ear, glib mouth, and hole where his soul never was.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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