Juanita Stein's rich musical background spans from Coldplay involvements, to bands such as Howling Bells and Waikiki. On this occasion, her solo album is America is pure and unadulterated. Inspired by photos from the Great Depression-era, this journey runs deeper beyond its delectable rocky exterior.
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Howling Bells....Howling Bells.....Howling Bells. Nope. It's not coming back to me. Not Trembling Bells, nor Howling Hex nor Broken Bells. I have to admit I can't remember Howling Bells, the band Juanita Stein fronted before she took things into her own hands. I can't remember everything you know?
Anyway this her debut solo record finds itself battling for air in the severely overcrowded Americana/noir folk sector with musical nods to Patsy Cline, Paula Frazer/Tarnation and Neko Case. The quality of her songwriting could help elevate her over and above. Both 'Florence' and 'Dark Horse' have gentle, satisfying arrangements and catchy ear friendly choruses. Over this Stein sings with that kind of twang that does something inexplicable to a man. She's been inspired by depression era America and here delves into the sepia tinged world of dusty trails and dustbowl melancholy. On 'Black Wings' she changes tack rather impressively with something that sounds as if Jane Weaver swapped rainy Manchester for the desert. An eerie, impressionistic piece it proves that Stein is more than just another songwriter with a voice seemingly fed only by syrup.
But generally the album has a sort of Blue Velvet feel in the twilit atmospheres with something of Cowboy Junkies 'The Trinity Sessions' in the minimal, spooky arrangements and a sultry twang of Hope Sandoval in the voice. I enjoyed listening to this enormously.
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- America by Juanita Stein
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