What does “Americana” mean to you? Is it blues, folk, country, or jazz? Sometimes it can be all of that — a meandering journey incorporating elements of every genre of music that has roots elsewhere but took shape in America. Many bands have tried to leave their stamp on the genre. Some get some elements right, focusing on the folk or country elements. Sometimes Julie, however, gets it all right every time.
Sometimes Julie Shows what “Americana” Should Be
Hailing from San Diego, CA, Sometimes Julie is the brainchild of singer-songwriter Monica Sorensen and veteran songwriter and musician Rick Walker. The duo got together in 2012 after Walter heard Sorensen at a local karaoke joint — under the stage name “Julie,” the band’s namesake — and instantly found someone to bring “some better storytelling” to his 20 years’ worth of songs.
That storytelling is on display — and in fine form — in the band’s latest EP, Bright Side of the Line. The collection of six songs is some of the best in the Americana genre, blending bits of blues, swing, and garage rock to present a unified whole that is charismatic, honest, and undeniably fun.
The album sees Sorensen dealing with intense emotions in her battle to deal with the death of her 20-year-old son. Every song is defined by tension — a push-and-pull, give-and-take, quiet-and-loud dichotomy that balances the darkness at the heart of the music with soaring crescendos expertly pulled off by a band playing as cohesively as it gets.
Songwriting as the Main Attraction
If the goal of every song is to tell a story, then the pressure is on the songwriting to convey the emotion. Luckily, Sorensen and Walter are up to the task. Walter’s compositions manage tremendous amounts of contrast. The arrangements all sound familiar at first, following traditional blues scales as the songs demand. Where Walter shines, however, is when the songs go off in unexpected directions, with chord changes that sound jarring at first but then make total sense, just like some of the best Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen, and even Radiohead songs.
And then there’s Sorensen’s voice. Equal parts Chrissie Hynde and Pat Benatar with the sheer power of Melissa Etheridge, Sorensen shines in every track with an unflinching honesty paired with tremendous sincerity and tenderness. She’s playful in songs like “Emily” and “Standing My Own Ground,” angry in the title track “Bright Side of the Line,” and powerful in “Another World.”
But she particularly shines in the terrific “Sanctuary,” an effortless classic song where not just Sorensen but the entire band shows exactly how well their chemistry works. Walter’s backing vocals perfectly complement Sorensen’s soaring highs. Also drawing the spotlight is lead guitarist Alberto Moreno with meticulously crafted solos that are at times Lindsey Buckingham and Joe Perry (and at one point even Noel Gallagher). Keeping it all afloat is the impressive rhythm section of drummer George Nelms and bassist Bruce Paul Allen.
Like the best of Americana — and, really, like the best of America — it always comes down to how well the parts come together to form the whole. With Sometimes Julie, all the parts, from the carefully craftsmanship to the seasoned musicians and Sorensen’s honed and powerful voice, together create a band that is compelling, memorable, and most importantly, fun.
Check out Bright Side of the Line on the band’s site or on iTunes.