Stone Cupid - band
Stone Cupid Hit the Heart, Headed for the Studio
Julie Christensen’s new band Stone Cupid, a kindred spirit to her post-punk powerhouse Divine Horsemen, was invited to be one of the final acts at East Nashville landmark The Family Wash, before its relocation, in February. The honor was eagerly accepted, since it was at the Wash that the band first played together less than a year before, and felt something truly special.
“This lineup fell together almost fatefully, and the songs seemed to play themselves,” says Christensen. “It was so natural, so simpatico, like some concurrent extra-spiritual thing.” Stone Cupid headed to the studio with producer Jeff Turmes in mid-March along with engineer Joe Costa (RCA Studio A/Ben Folds) to capture that vibe in an album that was mixed and mastered in late spring of 2015 and was released January 22, 2016.
Christensen, who’s authored five independent albums and sung with everyone from Leonard Cohen to Lou Reed, has surrounded herself with a team of team players. Guitarists Sergio Webb and Chris Tench flank Christensen at the front, and the “absence of ego” she lauds is on full display. As Tench creates the ideal sonic landscape, Webb populates it with one stunning surprise after another. Propelling the enterprise are drummer Steve Latanation and bassist Bones Hillman, who combine taste and telepathy into something so unified they seem a single entity.
The crew’s résumés feature stage or studio credits for a wide swath of top-shelf acts, including Midnight Oil, Sheryl Crow, Agent Orange, Americana stalwarts Matthew Ryan, Amelia White and David Olney, and country mavericks Gail Davies and Pinto Bennett.
Christensen’s own musical odyssey is as varied as the kinds of songs she can deliver. Born and raised in Iowa, she headed to Austin in the late 70s, then L.A. in 1981. There she met and married Chris Desjardins and together they formed Divine Horsemen, a band whose sound she likens to “Beggars Banquet-era Stones.” Three whirlwind years later, they had amassed two full albums, two EPs, three cross-country tours, three songs on the Border Radio soundtrack, and one blown-apart band, marriage included.
From 1988-1993 Christensen toured the world with Leonard Cohen as one of two featured backup singers. In 1990, she was signed by Polygram, but the Todd Rundgren-produced album fell victim to label politics and went unreleased. 2005 saw her paying tribute to Cohen in the Came So Far for Beauty concert series, and spotlighted in the feature documentary I’m Your Man.
An East Nashville resident since 2013, Christensen is beguiled by its concentration of musicians and their camaraderie. The move from California, meant to nurture opportunities in the acoustic/roots community, now finds her in the studio with a rock band, envisioning big-stage concert and festival gigs, and she couldn’t be happier. “I really come alive with a band,” she says, “I’m very theatrical, and people respond to it.”
Producer Turmes, who’s worked with such luminaries as Mavis Staples, Tom Waits and Richard Thompson, was again at the helm, as he was for Christensen’s previous album, 2012’s “Weeds Like Us,” a project that garnered some Top Ten attention in end-of-year honors.
The new album will include artful tunes from Kevin Gordon, Chuck Prophet and others, and a healthy helping of Christensen originals, plus a bonus hidden track of a soul cover of Cohen’s “Anthem.” “I’m so fired up with what we’re doing,” she says, noting similarities to her 80s roots with the Horsemen. “There was all this grand stuff then -- the Reagan Era, Dynasty, Miami Vice -- and bubbling under was all this heartbreak and dysfunction and despair. It bred a lot of wonderful art.”
She’s also optimistic that albums are not the dinosaurs some predict. “An album is an arc. It unfolds, piece by piece. I see young people buying albums. They’re listening. They’re getting it. I love that.”A new Stone Cupid album will be well worth the listen. “We’ve all done the big stages,” says Christensen. “This won’t be our first rodeo.” --Tony Laiolo Spring 2015
Julie Christensen - bandleader, singer
Julie Christensen's background includes two world-tour stints singing with the great Leonard Cohen, and co-fronting SST post-punk proto-Americana rockers Divine Horsemen in the 1980s. Her brand of "luscious Americana Art-Pop" is showcased in her 2012 release "Weeds Like Us" on Household Ink Records out of Santa Barbara. "Weeds" is a collection of songs for the unlucky, brave, and tough produced by Jeff Turmes, of Mavis' Staples' band. Julie has been accompanying herself on guitar lately, surrounded by her many musical friends and allies, and is looking to book concerts, house concerts, festivals and listening room situations throughout the U.S. and Europe. She and her family currently reside in East Nashville, where she has also assembled a band of all-star players and released a newly finished band album, "The Cardinal," in 2016.
"--one of the truer singers you’ll ever hear — straight up, no mannerisms, perfect taste; listen to.. her piercing new Something Familiar, and recognize how she could sing with both Leonard Cohen and Chris D. “--Greg Burk L.A. WEEKLY
“Simply put, this gal’s voice can raise every single hair on my body— and all at the same time! Be it R&B, pop, rock, she can sing it all, and with style, too.” -- LA Weekly
"From the heart-wrenching title track, which serves up an aching dose of harsh reality, to the cascading piano that drives the plaintive “Something Pretty,” Where the Fireworks Are is a collection of songs spanning the emotional spectrum. It provides an evocative musical chariot for Christensen to weave her vocal magic." (Brett Leigh-Dicks) VC REPORTER
Weeds like Us, Great Plains Soul from Julie Christensen(by Josef Woodard)
Julie Christensen belongs firmly in the ranks of artists with deep roots in the spirit of “Americana,” going back long before such a genre was thusly known. Those roots are clearer and stronger than ever on her powerful new album Weeds like Us, her sixth album overall and third for Household Ink Records. Within this cohesive collection of tracks, the singer belts out blues- basted and soulful tunes and nestles into folk and country material with grit and wisdom. She even cleanly expresses the pop side of her musical being. Christensen does all this with a potent genuineness which bumps her latest album up a level, wielding a renewed musical mission statement.
A quick gander at Christensen’s long, winding and heartfelt road in music touches on the landscapes - cultural and actual – which helped shape her "Great Plains Soul" vision. Born in Iowa City and raised in Central Iowa, she spent some years in Austin, Texas and wound up in Los Angeles in time to soak up -- and also influence -- the rich post-punk and roots-revival scene there. Her musical path included a co-leader role in the seminal, SST-signed country-punk band Divine Horseman, working on her ne'er released album for Polygram with Todd Rundgren, and a significant stint as a background singer with Leonard Cohen during his fertile late '80's-early ‘90s period. Her close link to Cohen’s world was revived last decade with work on high profile Cohen tributes around the world, and a featured spotlight in the documentary I’m Your Man, singing his classic “Anthem.” Along the way, she has also sung with the varied likes of Van Dyke Parks, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, PiL and guitarist Robben Ford.
But her "roots" system has always grounded her music, and reaches naturally to the surface on her new album. Weeds Like Us is a hard-won and triumphant project, grown from lost seeds. Originally, Christensen had been working on an album to be produced by her friend and colleague, the late, great Kenny Edwards (colleague and bandmate of Linda Ronstadt, Karla Bonoff and countless L.A. alliances). After recovering from his passing, of cancer, in 2010, Christensen regrouped in mid-2011 with producer- songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Jeff Turmes, whose haunting gothic-folk title song, “Weeds like Us,” is one of the anchoring pieces of the song set. She pays tribute to Edwards with his tender song “On Your Way to Heaven,” which is graced with a harmony vocal by Teddy Thompson.
Enhanced by musical input from longtime Christensen allies Greg Leisz, Turmes, Don Heffington, and Debra Dobkin, Weeds like Us is a musical journey with heart and chops, from the rollicking opener “Restless” to the closing, everyday survivor’s benediction of “Broken.” From the down ‘n’ dirty business of Jim Lauderdale's “Slow Motion Trouble” to the rugged country-rock waltz of her own “My Lucky Stars,” the record showcases what makes Christensen so versatile and true. Weeds like Us announces a strong new phase in the ongoing saga of Julie Christensen, Americana artist to the marrow.