Julie Robert first burst onto the scene with 2004's "Breakdown Here," which ultimately charted in the Top 20 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs tally. She then followed that up with a pair of records for Mercury, later releasing music on her own Ain't Skeerd label. Despite lack of commericial viability or radio hits, Julie did not let that damper her progression to a admirable beacon of hope in a dismal country music landscape, delivering her best recordings of her career.
With "Good Wine and Bad Decisions" she attempts to carve out her own little niche in the market, a sulty hybrid of blues, country, americana and soul. Needless to say, she delivers one of the year's truly interesting records. As her first wide scale release in seven (long) years, Julie's album is the first release in decades for the iconic Sun Records, a studio which gave fans the blessed music of Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Conway Twitter (among many others). It's touted as "Where Rock and Roll Was Born," and Julie does not disappointed with "Good Wine." In fact, her voice has never sounded as good, or as alluring as it does here.
This album marks a sunny future for the singer-songwriter, who penned many of the album's cuts, including the searing title track (which, in fact, opens the record). By incorporating soul and blues elements into her music, Julie is setting a precident that not all mainstream country music needs to be the pop-country fluff (or even hip-hop) that is permeating the airwaves. She explores varied tempos, rhythms and grooves and phrasing throughout the 14-track project, channeling her inner sensual goddess and delivering blistering vocal performarnces. From the outset, she digs her heels into more traditional influences, boldly making her mark.
"He Made a Woman Out of Me" and "Keep Me Up All Night," in particular, are scorching numbers, sultry in their delivery. They creep along the skin, like a siren along the fringes of a lake. She tantalizes the listener with the lyrics, culminating in a curious payoff in the end. Even "Gasoline and Matches," which Leann Rimes also cut for her "Spitfire" collection, is a grittier rendition than expected, offering up a few dashes of vulnerability along the way.
"Good Wine," in many ways, is modern-day Rockabilly. At Sun Records, this style of music-making saw marked development, and Julie does not take that lightly. Many of the tracks, including the tender "Old Strings," hinges on sparse arrangements around a lone guitar. It moves. It does not depend on boisteroius pop elements or a thumping drum track. It's simple and haunting. This song is one of the finest vocals on the record, and if we were ever to see a resurgence of the old school way of thinking, it would be with this track (or even with the equally sensational "I'll Close My Eyes").
Julie has caught lightning in a bottle. It's not too often than a once-mainstream vocalist can return with a roar on a record that speaks to the soul of music with such ferocity. "Good Wine," which also includes stellar showings in "Bones" and "Daddy Doesn't Pray," sets in motion a new, revived Sun Records, while paying homage to the great music that was made before within its walls.
Other gems: "Old Habit," "I'm Not Getting Any Better At Goodbye"
Overall Grade: A
Earlier this year, Nashville Gab had a chance to catch up with the singer. Check out that interview here.