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Versatility has never been a problem or a pose for singer Julie Christensen, whose
voice found a home in the L.A. post-punk band Divine Horsemen and, for years, as a
spotlighted singer with Leonard Cohen. With Something Familiar, her third CD, she adds
another genre feather to the cap: jazz.
Singing standards, and in her own signature style, is actually nothing new for the
vocalist. In her sundry travels, geographically and musically, she has dipped into the Great
American Songbook for years, from her native Iowa to years spent in Austin and Los
Angeles, and onto her current life, based in Ojai, California.
Something Familiar is more than a standards festival. The album title itself is taken
from a fascinating Jimmy Webb-penned rarity, “Just Like Marilyn,” There is also the original
“Hard to Love,” and a gritty-bluesy workout, “Today I Sing the Blues.”
With her keyboardist and longtime creative cohort Karen Hammack, Christensen tracked in
Brooklyn with noted jazz drummers Jeff Ballard and Kenny Wollesen, alongside bassists
Mary Ann McSweeney and Don Falzone. Back on the west coast, trumpeter Jeff Elliott and
pedal steel guitarist-of-note Greg Liesz added their spices to the mix. The end result is a
fresh twist on old musical values, something familiar yet also otherwise.
Christensen’s first solo album should have been released in 1990, after she worked
on it with producer Todd Rundgren at his Bearsville studio. Alas, the album got caught up
in record company snafus and it has remained on the shelves all these years. Meanwhile,
Christensen took the DIY route and made two fine albums, Love is Driving (1997) and Soul
Driver (2001), on her own Stone Cupid label.
Among Christensen’s present musical activities, her connection to Leonard Cohen’s
world continues, as a featured member of the Cohen tribute projects produced by Hal
Willner. The tribute’s Sydney Opera House concerts became the core of the acclaimed
documentary, Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, featuring Christensen and her longtime ally
(and fellow Ojai-an) Perla Batalla on the classic Cohen song “Anthem.” The Came So Far for
Beauty concert series in fact just held two performances in Dublin, Ireland on October 4th
and 5th, and Julie again participated, along with Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Nick Cave,
Beth Orton, Jarvis Cocker and many others.
Christensen’s re-entry into her solo career is coming on strong. Where the Fireworks
Are, a companion album worked on simultaneously with Something Familiar, is in the
Julie Christensen is one of the truer singers you’ll ever hear — straight up, no
mannerisms, perfect taste; listen to her takes on “But Beautiful,” “Stolen Moments” and
“Blame It on My Youth,” from her piercing new Something Familiar, and recognize how she
could sing with both Leonard Cohen and Chris D. (Greg Burk) L.A. WEEKLY
... from angelic, folky charm to truly badass bluesy wails; ...one of the loveliest voices in
contemporary music--LA WEEKLY