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Julie Roberts – Alive (CD Review)

Julie Roberts – Alive (CD Review)
1. Mama Said Don’t 2. Stronger 3. Alive 4. You Got Me 5. Yesterday’s Blue 6. Ain’t No Thing
7. One For The Road 8. Let’s Fight 9. Whiskey and You 10. Somebody Does
11. Carolina From My Soul 12. NASCAR Party
Label – Independent release Copyright © 2011 Julie Roberts Music
UPC – 884501534703
Release Date – June 6, 2011
Time – 40:58
Alive, Stronger, Soulful and ready to party
On this her third album, ALIVE marks a very much welcomed return for Julie Roberts after a 5-year hiatus. Released independently, this 12-track recording is her first since the 2006 sophomore album MEN & MASCARA which drew critical acclaim and charted a #4 spot on the Billboard Country Chart.
The album cuts loose with the fiery, rebellious mid-tempo ‘Mama Said Don’t’ in which a daughter ignores a mothers plea and tries in vain to prove her wrong. She messes up her best Sunday dress on a muddy river bank and chooses to mess around with the good-for-nothing boys: Oh every time Mama said don’t I did.
It was co-written with friends Rachel Procter and Victoria Banks. Again this trio collaborated on the emotional charged ‘Somebody Does’; as Julie reaches out faithfully to an unloved lost and lonely soul. Both these tracks also made their way onto Victoria’s latest release NEVER BE THE SAME.
Roberts crash lands on ‘Stronger’: “I fall sometimes / I crawl sometimes / lose it all sometimes / it makes me stronger,” she sings. It’s an autobiographical number, but not obviously so. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, which started whilst on tour with her first album. The beautiful “Break Down Here” songbird admitted that her health troubles understandably shook her confidence. Then she became one of the countless Nashville residents who lost their home and personal belongings in the Tennessee Floods in May 2010. With her strong belief she overcomes torn up plans, scares, curses and weeping on sleepless nights. The track was written with Grammy award winning writer Don Schlitz whose songs have changed the life’s of many. Both Julie and Don brought this musical story into the heart of a women’s New York prison whilst working on a special programme for the Magdalene prison ministry.
The achingly beautiful title track and haunting ballad ‘Alive’ has universal appeal to the listener. It could be making a connection on the phone to a distant lover or with a deep faith and barely hanging on after setbacks, seeking help with a message to another world: I’m right there beside you like you right here beside me. But then with the line: Music brings you back to me and I feel such a lift – It’s a thank you to the fans that have missed her presence on the music scene. It sets a tone for the record, she’s making a statement – “I am still here and I’m still making music “
The fabulously entertaining and danceable ‘You Got Me‘has a Dixie Chicks ‘Long Time Gone’ feel with a dash of Patsy Cline. With a bluesy vocal accompanied by lovely instrumentation with banjo, mandolin, piano and great swampy electric guitar riffs it generates a country sound from yesteryear.
Roberts showcases her aptitude to convey pain in the heartbreaker ‘Yesterday’s Blue’, co-written with New Orleans born Chris Roberts from the Nashville-based country-rock harmony trio One Flew South. After watching a former lover fall into another’s arms, finally the tears no longer fall. In the second verse she’s found salvation and is moving on: I’ve got better things to do / then be stuck in yesterday blue. After break-up, as a pillowy steel fades he can keep the memories and the pick-up truck, she’s going to curl up with a dog and sleep like a baby, knowing they are finally through.
With its steel, guitar and piano riffs the break-up ballad ‘One For The Road’ brought to mind the Eagles ‘Take It To The Limit’. Julie’s sultry vocals are evident as a couple make one last romantic memory tick as they pour another drink and turn the lights down low.
Honky tonk ballad ‘Whiskey and You’ previously appeared on Tim McGraw’s 2007 album LET IT GO penned by Lee Thomas Miller and Chris Stapleton (member of The Steeldrivers). On this soaring number a woman fights with her inner demons and a drinking problem. She drinks because she’s lonesome, it hides the pain, but forgiveness is something she cannot buy.
Album stand out ‘Carolina From My Soul’ is a magnificent autobiographical ballad with its exquisite arrangement and gospel flavourings. Here the 32-year old Lancaster county born singer puts in powerful performance paying homage to her native South Carolina. It may hold painful memories as her mother moved to Nashville after divorcing her father. Lyrics relate to a difficult personal relationship but Julie’s homeland will always remain her bedrock: You can steal the light from my eyes / cut me down, criticize, tell me pretty lies / you can’t take Carolina from my soul
As we draw to the finishing line in Shania “Any-Man-Of-Mine” fashion Julie gets all revved up and has fun in the energetic ‘NASCAR Party’. Roberts professes to be a lifetime race fan having watched it on TV growing up in Carolina and a few years ago sang the national anthem at a NASCAR track in Atlanta. She helped the National Association create a video at Texas Motor and Charlotte Motor Speedways featuring driver Brother Edwards. It was showcased at the track appearing on a 200 feet wide by 80 feet tall screen. On a first listen it’s easy to dismiss but with its catchy hooks it sticks-like-glue in the brain and could well provide a line dance favourite.
Julie may well have had a chequered career these last 5 years through no fault of her own but it’s a shame the checkered flag had to be waved as I was anxious to hear more.

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