14 March 2018, Sitting Room Session, Napier By Megan Seawright
Long, suspending, singular notes; a formidable drift; a lilt of proven purpose and sweet vocal posture: This is how it is when you’re faced with Julia Deans and her powerhouse voice. We listen with attention to these threads of rock pared down to a guitar and a voice.
Julia’s substantial musical career has seen her through various guises, all contributing to defining New Zealand music. From the Banshee Reel, NZ Celtic rock + some… (I had a cassette), through Fur Patrol’s popular rock, electronica, and the collaborative act The Adults, Julia has kept pace despite commenting that over recent years, well, “life happens”, and album releases get extended.
From first set to second, Julia’s friendly and open banter between songs leads us into thorough and potent feelings that become painfully exposing. Like the point-blank pause in her singing to share a significant story and dedication to her friend’s daughter, Chelsea. And she asks us, “do we talk about these kinds of things? Do I talk about it with you guys? What do ya think?” The crowd answers her… “it’s good to know Chelsea’s story”. And we, the audience, bear it and witness a gathering of emotion and public gifting of song, poetically articulate: the truth known within the first few notes and words. It’s inescapable and many in the audience let a tear roll.
Here, with clarity, is the raw realism of singer songwriters in NZ when they’re bound firmly to their own identity and the influences of geography. And when they are courageous enough to roll into the brooding isolations of bleak moments in our relations. And she’s brave enough to challenge herself, in her own phrasing to “owning that two-word, two-syllable word… bullshit”.
Along the way, Julia swoons, and we all drop in on that airstream and fly awhile alongside clandestine happenings. Julia has plenty to say about her relationships and connections, her hopes and observations, and each one has a turning point. This is just how it is: alive and kicking. She has style and grace and – damn don’t cross her either way – she is expressive, brave, quirky but pretty kind too.
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