MP3 Julie Dillon - It Is Late
Gritty waltzes, whispered stories, sassy rock songs. Hooks that feel like deja vu. Vocals that melt even the most jaded listener. Each song is a story or intimate conversation that wraps you up in tales of its long day and sordid night.
11 MP3 Songs
ROCK: Folk Rock, ROCK: Acoustic
San Francisco Examiner, September 26, 2002
On her debut album, "It Is Late", for her own Mama Elephant Records, San Francisco-based singer-songwriter Julie Dillon comes across tired but wise, breathy but commanding. It''s post-flower power, pre-punk storytelling in the same vein as Patti Smith with a gritty, melodramatic, almost country tinge a la Victoria Williams.
Every song plays like an intimate secret that tugs at your heart and reeks of both pain and the strength derived from it.
But this isn''t the misty-eyed girl pop that artists like Jewel are trying to pass off as contemporary folk music. Dillon''s lyrics aren''t sweet. They''re honest, introspective, intimate, and above all, as real as she is.
This is music for late night drives down dark, gravel roads and ugly, gut-wrenching break ups.
There is something primal about this music. If you don''t know Julie you might wonder where she gets these influences: the sparse rhythms of the Beats and of their spiritual children of the NYC downtown art punk scenes. The dust and dry wind of the open plains. The funk and sweat of Latin America. The edge and naiveté in true punk. You wouldn''t guess she''s a west coast city girl and S.F. lady of the day, struggling to get by in the post new economy let down. These songs are timeless, transcending place to reveal an inner landscape unique unto itself. But, the trick is you don''t think to think of these things until the music is gone. Each song is a story or intimate conversation that wraps you up in tales of its long day and sordid night. Sung with a hushed directness, every tune feels like a new secret to be carried to the bright light of day, some with banners waving, others with soft hands and somber heart. And although these thoughts and voices are new to me, I feel like I''ve made a friend every time I hear the disc. And it''s funny because this is not a cutting edge record full of hot shots and technology. It''s not a record of disorienting poly fusion musicality or slick bandwagoneering, either. It''s a record of honesty, heart and commonality. It brings back memories of your favorites, that good feeling when you discovered a musical compatriot. Julie takes her time with these tunes, but she still has the joie de vivre of a first-timer. The songs here are bare boned assessments of the state of the heart that find their way to your psyche one foot in front of the other, slowly but surely. Simplicity is the key that makes this, a debut album, both reveal and transcend the 30 years of it''s creator.
It Is Late is a stellar debut, with excellent engineering and production from Jambay bassist Mike Sugar and some sweet and subtle tunes. The effect is one of slow discovery that lingers long after the last cut wanders away from your ears.
--Charlie Knote, Bill Graham Presents, San Francisco
When music found it''s ordered way into human''s life, a very Prometheus thing occurred: music often became a power too great to wield by fearful humans. Its original conception began with little people reaching for notes, these invisible stars hallowing heads. Suddenly, humans just stopped right where they were next to that dry cave, collectively looked up and started to freak and dance with one tribal voice. Like fire, music eventually ended up burning and devouring those who saw how loud it could scream "look at me god damnit-and don''t talk back." Music somehow morphed into a bunch of doped up little boys afraid of saying anything at all without the aid of big scary hair and thrusting hips to stand behind.
I don''t know about anyone else, but elitism in music, especially at a concert, where you became uncool all but five minutes ago, doesn''t seem much like music at all. Searching for music that might rise above the typical cool guy indie rock clichés, I arrived at Julie Dillon''s show at the Hotel Utah. Not surprisingly, my ultra hip, polyester pants that were entirely too tight didn''t seem to possess the secret allure that they usually create. In fact, I don''t remember one compliment on my pants that whole night. What I do remember is how people danced without looking around to see if anyone else was looking at them. There were people celebrating with friends. Life''s trauma was remedied with connection to another human. Julie Dillon''s voice took command with a soft melody floating everyone along their own path backwards into their past. And when Miss Dillon did decide to really belt it out, the crowd all followed forward. Everyone seemed to be rejoicing together with guards down. Even that one, lonely, drunk, frat guy found himself bobbing his head next to the speaker.
It really felt nice to just sort of be. I danced and found myself singing melodies that seemed familiar and safe. "Hamster Wheel," contains one of the more compelling vocal structures and opens with words, "Wish I knew what you were thinking be as wild/ as you want oh my do that thing again go spin/ go check out the lame ones they''re crying/ tortured flying to the genesis of pain." Dillon narrates a story where the protagonist is invited to drop whatever skillful act they may feel needed to preserve a sense of integrity. Like the protagonist, I too felt invited to enjoy the natural freak out minus the hysteric theatrics.
I bought the CD at the show and immediately played the disk when I came home. The melodies were like old friends who understand before I feel the need to explain. A lot of bands have that sunshine and peace and love and unicorn kind of vibe, but that concept seems to limit the scope of the human condition. The celebration of being human and being alive seems most adequately expressed when music courageously explores some of the more dangerous territory. This is best accomplished in songs like "Ave Maria." In "Ave Maria" Dillon returns her listeners to the entrapping feelings of childhood. Intuition often turns on children due to their incapacity to identify feelings. Dillon deals specifically with abandonment and loneliness (Ave Maria never lied, we''re still on top and I/ don''t know why, the state I''m in and the make I/ saw, away away over there, it go: rikki tikki tavi, one son of me, hare hare Krishna, oh my god, I''m in the airport with my mommy when we gonna stop mommy when we gonna stop...) and also with memories of a childhood shadowed by the fears of the cold war (red it down, they red it down down now, set a bomb upon my neighbor...) The idea of knowing something big is encroaching upon this child''s mind without the ability to escape through processing the sequence of events overwhelms the listener. As a listener we are allowed to look at ourselves and at what specific events molded us into the person we are today.
Dillon''s relies on telling the truth in her song writing. The Ego doesn''t really have any room in such a tight arena built around Dillon''s poignant life experiences. Trusting the singer as a storyteller reminds me of musicians like singer/songwriters Bob Dylan or Ani Difranco. The story is for everyone to listen, to learn and to share. Dillon inspires others to appreciate and tell their own story.
Her voice is best when it retains that swirl of wind blowing through a fairy tale, a fucked up fairy tale, but still a world that everyday life seems to forget ever existed. The ambience of Dillon''s music whisks the listener away into a land of child like innocence and introspection. When I first saw Julie play her music I was fortunate enough to experience both her solo acoustic work, and the rowdy jubilant rock band jimmy, whom she fronts. Julie celebrates the expansive range of human experience and emotion. Her lyrical depth shares a symbiotic relationship with her vocal range. The expansive emotional spectrum of Dillon''s songs is infused with nursery whispers to the full throttle propulsion of ravaged screams. Dillon''s ability to manipulate the pitch of her voice is reminiscent of the wonderfully exciting tension reserved for such musical giants as bands like the Pixies, Nirvana or Modest Mouse, all fronted by male vocalists. Dillon''s unique talent to employ beautiful melody with soul shaking volume seems especially appropriate and refreshing from the lesser visible but obviously equal important female perspective. Dillon often utilizes her gift of pitch and harmony in live performances with songs like "Wagon Train," (Billy ya shouldn''t be drinkin that whiskey/ Billy you''ll never last/ Billy ya know when you''re drinkin'' that whiskey/ Well ya sure act like an ass like an ass) and "Someday," (Someday she''ll be dead thinking I was a good child.)
Dillon creates a complete performance by tearing down emotional boundaries while sharing wisdom from personal experience. Her courage relies on her honesty and vulnerability accompanied with introspective stories. The listener feels engaged and a part of the many worlds Dillon explores. Dillon creates enough space for everyone to relate and boogie at the same time. The inclusive nature of her shows proves unity does not have to reek of patchouli oil and mildewed hemp but rather shared life experiences. Her music places a mirror in front of you, and you notice Julie Dillon''s reflection standing right next to you saying, "Hell, you don''t look so bad to me."
--Ryan Wesierski, San Francisco