19 Jun 2007
This past weekend PiratePalooza alumna Juliana Finch held a CD release party at the Red Light Cafe in Midtown Atlanta for the debut of her newest album “How To Take The Fall” [now available at CDBaby.com]. See how our guest music reviewer, renowned fancypants Lieutenant Lewellyn “Farnsy” Middleworth of the Queen’s Own Music Brigade, takes the fall with a satisfying bite from those most tempting of apples: love, and Juliana Finch. Album review after the break!
Several years ago I had the good fortune of receiving a guest pass to a private, musicians-only party at Sir Alton Leonard’s estate. Between the grilling, the beer drinking and the gooosto-grabbing, the musicians ranged around the cookfire took great freewheeling turns contributing to a jam session of legendary proportion (at least, that’s how it seemed to this meek reporter). Near the end of the evening’s festivities, a pretty little blonde girl wearing a cowboy hat picked up a guitar and began singing in a voice that made everyone at the party stop and turn to look in her direction. I never found out who that girl was until this past week when I ran into Sir Leonard’s daughter Fiona at a cotillion where she confirmed my growing suspicion: “Yes,” she said “that was Juliana Finch.”
A song that begins with “I know I seem hard, but I shatter so easy” is poised to smolder in the low pyre of heartbreak, but with a simple upchord and a lilt in her voice, Finch turns this song into something so much more powerful and enduring. Glass Heart is a song that climbs from ashes into life. It’s Juliana’s anthem for those who’ve had their hearts handled carelessly, her encouragement to never shutter your heart…. “but I still live my windows open, I leave my door unlocked so you can come right in”. There is great strength in endurance and this beautiful, complex song is an incredible gift from the Juliana to her audience (especially one of them).
Fraught with danger, like its namesake, Rattlesnake is sensuous, twisty, sharp and dripping with a venom that lies somewhere between self-reproach and newfound power. The song opens with the cawing wings of cruel horns, rising and crashing against the lie that we sometimes tell ourselves… the lie that we’re “good people” who are beyond causing hurt to others. The antithesis of coffee shop instrumentals, Rattlesnake is shot through with madness and conflict. This is the girl that your Mother warned you about…. she’s glimpsed the black depths of her own heart and knows where it’s pitch with desecration. (These are the sorts of fancy words we fancypants music reviewers use when we haven’t had our breakfasts yet.)
The Wind That Shakes the Barley
Touching on her early influences, Finch takes a turn spinning the classic Irish reel of a young rebel whose one true love is killed just as he’s working up the nerve to tell her that he’s leaving her so he can join in the Rebellion of 1798. Juliana’s soft, mournful voice frames the fiddle’s keen, ghost-like and wan, like the wind that shakes the barley round the grave of that long-ago Irish girl.
All too ready for radioplay, this song has the all hallmarks of a fan favorite that will never seem to get enough airplay. The phrasing, the piano, the violin and crowning cymbals insist that you toss this into a mix with your Mary Black.
In this interweaving, cascading duo with David Berkeley, Juliana reminds us that no matter how long ago you left a relationship (or it left you), try as you might to forget it, there’s almost always a glimmer of the torch you carried for your lover. She cain’t quit you!
Love Like You
This is a very special song from Juliana to her parents. I was so surprised by the song that I practically shouted “ohhhhh WOW, I never knew!” out loud in my fancy sedan. I will be severely disappointed if Juliana does not perform this song when she plays with Driving & Cryin’. My second reaction was to consider introducing her to the wife of an old-time country preacher that I’ve always thought could be the spitting image of her grandmother.
By this point in the album you don’t want to share this wonderful singer with anyone, especially some fellow named Joshua. And yet, bafflingly, this is exactly what Ms. Finch does on track number 7. My firm advice to all the gentlemen who purchase this album is to just depress the fast forward button on your musicbox (or rPhone)…. unless of course your name is Joshua. For all of you love-struck girls out there, please get over it. Ruffians named Joshua have poor table manners, they do not wash their hands after visiting the chamber pot and they expect you to dine with them as the Dutch are said to do, that is, at your own expense.
This is absolutely my favorite song on the album!! I could listen to it over and over (and have), though I must warn you that I’m ever so fond of sappy, treacly, waltz-laden music (being a child of Generation Welk). I can just imagine this Sarah person and her young beau in an apartment on Juniper Street, with so many perceived differences between them but One Big Thing in common (hint: Love). “Compromise is the cornerstone of lasting love,” says your never-been-in-a-steady-relationship reviewer.
Some relationships are like a rescue from being lost at sea. This is just Juliana showing off her growing maturity as a chart-bound singer. From the sparkly, purring build-up to the head-bopping chorus, this song is the one that all the girls will surely be singing along with from out in the audience, and is over all too quickly.
How to Take the Fall
So it all comes down to this: Falling In Love™. Who is this Juliana Finch singing to me? She comes out of the speaker all sexed up, highly polished, overdubbed, underscrubbed and glammed up like a Pop Goddess. Her trusty companion, the acoustic guitar is still there but there’s something very Other about this girl who falls in love in parking decks. Is this new voice where she goes next? The only way to find out is to get her to make another album.
I cannot end without remarking upon the exceptional performances delivered by all of Finch’s musicians, vocalists and engineers. The artwork for this album is gorgeous, a right endcap magnet filled with clever graphic sensibility. Oof.
Your most humble servant,
Lieutenant Lewellyn Farnesby Middleworth,
Her Majesty’s Own Music Brigade