Too Cool for the Room.
Richard Julian has a wry, low key sense of humor, a sly turn of phrase, five solo albums of breezy, jazz-inflected folk songs and high profile collaborations with artists like Norah Jones. All that and $3.75 will buy you a cup of coffee these days in his adopted hometown of New York City. Being one of the recording industry’s “best kept secrets” won’t get you past the velvet rope of mainstream popularity. “Sunday Morning in Saturday’s Shoes” is not likely to change much of that for Richard Julian but that doesn’t mean it isn’t another great album of sophisticated musical observations.
With a voice that is part Lyle Lovett, part Jackson Browne, Julian winks and nods at life’s ironies in songs about break-ups (“If You Stay”), the Americanization of the world (“Syndicated”) and what life would be like as the son of Jesus (“God III.”) There is a pessimistic song about optimism (“Spring is Just Around the Corner”) and a parable about the isolationism of ambition (“Man in the Hole.”) The instrumentation matches the starkness of the lyrics with only his guitar, rhythm section and occasional keyboard flourishes from producer Mitchell Froom.
Julian’s collaboration with Norah Jones in the one-off band The Little Willies brought his deadpan style to a wider audience, so maybe this will be the album that breaks big for him. More than likely though, his career will continue with the same fatalistic point of view of the characters in his songs. Julian summarizes his professional dilemma saying “Getting off the beaten path to find something more individual is getting harder and harder. ... People like what they know. But I hate the comfort of what I know.”
Listen for songs from Richard Julian’s album “Sunday Morning in Saturday’s Shoes” all this week on Paul Shugrue’s new music show “Out of the Box” on Hampton Roads public radio 89.5 WHRV Monday through Thursday from 7pm until 9pm, Saturday afternoon from 1pm to 5pm and on-demand at www.whrv.org/outofthebox.