In Review, Julianne Mason: Part One, The Fire

Part One, The Fire is masterfully written, astutely arranged, lyrically driven, and melodically reaching

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I met Julianne Mason when I introduced myself to her and her guitarist, Tom Hoy, at the end of their set this past summer in Brooklyn’s iconic Goodbye Blue Monday. They played a killer set, lyrical and melodic, and at the time I was looking for submissions for an upcoming poetry anthology. Singer/songerwriters tend to write solid poetry and Julianne’s submission, which was later published, lived up to that statement.

I liked her music enough to check it out on band camp and liked it enough to consider myself a fan. So this month when she released a new album, Part One, The Fire, I was happy to offer to review it.

Last week, on dark highway in California, with my brother at the wheel, I brought up her Band Camp page on my iPhone, plugged it into the car’s mainframe, and gave it my first listen. I guessed it would be good, but was not prepared for just how good it was going to be.

Part One, The Fire is masterfully written, astutely arranged, lyrically driven, and melodically reaching—these songs combine to build something bigger than their individual parts. They conjure something alive and clawing. Julianne’s created something lovely and broken, honest and mending, hoping and despairing and utterly human.

She sings about intimacy, relationships, dreams, uncertainty and frustration, often addressing an unnamed “you.” One gets the impression that Julianne has spent the better part of her life trying to say what she means and on this album has discovered some of those words and melodies and an openness to fully pour her heart out to mean what she’s meant. “The night is tasteless and I’m ashamed,” she sings in a grasping voice. She is frustrated, but aren’t we all? Because after all, “it’s a jungle, and we are lions / top predators, crying.”

Julianne Mason and guitarist Tom Hoy

Julianne Mason and guitarist Tom Hoy

The fourth track, “Cry,” I find myself putting on repeat, jogging to, writing to, and listening to again and again. Julianne repeats with power and gusto, “Oh god damn, I don’t want my bed to be all made.” She is “crying”, but at the same time commanding herself to “be brave, be brave, be brave.” That’s an apt adjective for this music—brave and braving this war called life.

She’s touched on something deep and instead of drowning in it, produced an emotive record that seems best summed up by the Oscar Wilde quotation, “We  are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking up at the stars.”

This album is a journey to those stars. There for all of it is Tom Hoy’s guitar, which seems to know just what to say, seems to speak the language of these melodies fluently—his riffs sing along with Julianne as her floating second voice. His licks declare on a primal level, “Listen up, because this is true.” Two tracks after “Cry,” in the same key, is “Float,” where Tom’s guitar seems to sparkle like those gutter-glimpsed stars as Julianne’s lyrics take an earned breath.

To be sure, this music is not the easiest to swallow for the pop swilling masses. I can understand that for some it might be an acquired taste. It’s not simple, but neither is life and it’s worth taking the time and effort to endeavor the understanding of it. It is melodic poetry that tells not just Julianne’s story, but touches our own tales. Listen for free here, and if you dig, support your starving artists and download.

Luke Maguire Armstrong

Luke Maguire Armstrong

Oh Luke Maguire Armstrong knows the Muffin Man. Oh yes, he knows the Muffin man. Luke is an author/musician, raccoon survivor, who has done educational development work in Central America, The Bronx, and Kenya. His work to battle infant malnutrition was featured on ABC News 20/20. He has never fought a bear and is the author of four books, including "How We Are Human" and "iPoems for the Dolphins to Click Home About." Read his bullshit at TravelWriteSing.com or follow him @LukeSpartacus and he will sing you songs. 

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