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Julie Lee

Till and Mule – 2013 ( Self-released)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Julie Lee

p>At first listen, Nashville songwriter, singer, and visual artist Julie Lee sounds like a combination of a couple of other Julies-Julie Miller and Julie Gold. Taking the preciousness of the former and the sentimentality of the latter, Lee has formulated her own style that's part roots music and part jazz chanteuse. Her work with Allison Krauss is perhaps most in line with her latest album, a mellow, reflective affair that's not unlike the past work of Shawn Colvin or Cheryl Wheeler.

Lee is in full confessional singer-songwriter mode throughout, with the first-person emotional narrative of Painfully Clear just one example of how Lee can take a simple situation and imbue it with not just melody but melancholy.

There's a jazzy undercurrent here, on songs such as the waltz-time A Thing of Beauty or the folk-tale antiquity of Brave North Wind, that takes Lee's otherwise fairly standard issue acoustic country-folk-pop template and tilts it just enough to make things intriguing to a listener not expecting much of a challenge from another female singer-songwriter.

Lee's far from just another anything, however, as she has managed here to take her own myriad influences - some obvious and some not so easily called out - and create her own musical persona. In the title's parlance, she's not plowing any new ground here, but her efforts bring rewards to those who cultivate and recognize the honest, heartfelt work involved.