“She’s been doing this a long time — you may or may not recognize her as a pillar of the 1980s Los Angeles punk scene and founding member of Divine Horsemen — and you can hear her experience in every note she sings. Notable sidemen include bassist/arranger Terry Lee Burns and slide player Greg Leisz, and all of the settings place her voice in the musical equivalent of a velvet jewel box.” - Rick Anderson
SINGER JULIE CHRISTENSEN RELEASE S NEW ALBUM APRIL 14, 2023
“THE PRICE WE PAY FOR LOVE,” RECORDED WITH BASSIST AND STRING ARRANGER TERRY LEE BURNS
Americana Highways premiered a new single of “Goldbridge Road” 3/14/23
Albuquerque, New Mexico – Julie Christensen remembers one of the first times a song made her cry: it was when she watched the young Judy Garland sing “Over The Rainbow” on her parents’ black and white TV. The emotional and physical landscape reached her on a deep level; she recognized that midwestern storm-driven terrain, because she’d traveled it, too. Sometimes calling it “Great Plains Soul,” she says, ”I can feel that in my bones.” Christensen’s story is sown into the fertile land of the last half-century of roots music. Her tale is a meandering beanstalk, and she has very often made music with giants.
More than most American vocalists, Julie has danced around issues of idiom, convincing us of her commitment to the musical moment, whether it be twangy post punk in the ‘80s L.A. band Divine Horsemen or as a longtime ally/singer in the poetic world according to Leonard Cohen. On her own two feet as a solo artist, Christensen has been quietly creating a vocalistic aesthetic based on the idea of a simple and liberated American style, granting herself license to visit turfs of pop, soul, punk, country and yes, Jazz.
A Hawkeye state pharmacist’s daughter, Iowa is the place where Julie grew up, in that generation between Boomer and Gen-X (some call it “Generation Jones.) “One of the great things Mom and I did together was sit at the piano and play and sing through the Judy Collins songbook, which of course had a lot of Leonard Cohen songs in it. Being creative in the middle of Iowa was no picnic, but my brothers and I found a way to get proficient at music.” She heard Bonnie Raitt on Iowa Public Radio, and then on a record belonging to her brothers. “I thought, ‘well she has red hair and she’s singing the blues and great SONGS.’ I could relate to her and wanted to emulate her.”
Christensen didn’t feel she had the hardscrabble pedigree to rival Loretta Lynn, or the urban sophistication to pull off singing jazz (another big influence.) But in college, Christensen fell for Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro. She became steeped in country rock, western swing, folk-rock and their feeder influences while performing in Iowa City’s Longshot, which opened for John Prine and Asleep at the Wheel, among others. When she moved to Austin to study music theory and arranging at the University of Texas, Christensen quickly integrated into the local scene, often singing jazz with members of “Jack-of-all-trades” band Passenger.
“People used to tell me that I sang jazz with a country accent,” Christensen remembers. That accent had faded from her speech after her move to Los Angeles, but it remained part of her sound, fitting right into the rockabilly-revved punk scene anchored by X, the Blasters and Los Lobos — all of whom contributed members to the Flesh Eaters, fronted by Chris Desjardins (aka Chris D). When that band split, Christensen and Desjardins joined forces as the Divine Horsemen — and as husband and wife. (When the Flesh Eaters’ most prominent lineup — Desjardins, X’s John Doe and DJ Bonebrake, Dave Alvin and the Blasters’ and Bill Bateman, and Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin — recorded a reunion album in 2018, Christensen sang on five tracks. (That led to a Divine Horsemen revival, and the 2021 release of their first new work in 33 years, Hot Rise of an Ice Cream Phoenix, and another one coming in 2023, on In The Red Records.)
It was Julie’s musician brothers who introduced her to Clovis New Mexico native Terry Lee Burns. They had known of Terry and his bass-playing talents in the Omaha music scene of the early ‘80s. Around that time, Christensen was singing in a couple Los Angeles swing outfits in need of a bass player, and Terry very capably slid right in to the job. Julie and her good friend Terry’s bread-and-butter was collected in the more lucrative “casual” and club circuits with Swingstreet, the Step Sisters, and other jazz gigs, including playing on the Queen Mary with the late New Orleans maestro Henry Butler on piano.
Christensen dove into songwriting after becoming sober in 1987; Divine Horsemen, and her marriage, broke shortly afterward. By then, Passenger had toured twice with Cohen, and in 1988, Passenger bassist Roscoe Beck became Cohen’s music director. He recommended Christensen for backing vocals. That tour of Europe and North America, on the strength of Cohen’s “I’m Your Man,” was life-altering and wondrous.
Following the tour, she signed with Polygram, but her Todd Rundgren-produced debut album got buried in a label reorganization. (Rundgren still laments that it was never released.) By the time Christensen joined Cohen’s 1993 tour, she had remarried and become a mother, and in 1996, two years after moving to Ojai, California, she released her first solo album, “Love Is Driving.” Several more have followed, spanning multiple genres, under her own name or as Stone Cupid.
Christensen’s versatility allows her to explore a broad range of other artists’ work. In 2016, on top of covering Amelia White, Dan Navarro, and Chuck Prophet, she included Kevin Gordon’s “Saint On A Chain” on Stone Cupid’s album, “The Cardinal.” She subsequently made an entire album of Gordon’s songs, “11 From Kevin-Songs Of Kevin Gordon” released in early 2022. Notably, she celebrated Cohen as part of the 2005 documentary, Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, in which she and vocalist Perla Batalla accompany Nick Cave, the McGarrigle Sisters, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Linda and Teddy Thompson and others. The duet version of “Anthem” with Perla is a standout.
Terry Lee Burns’ mother set his musical life in motion when he was 13, on Christmas morning, when she asked the owner of Clovis’ only music store to open up so Terry could pick out an electric bass guitar. He made his first recording in Norman Petty’s famed Clovis studio at the age of 15 and began his professional career in Omaha before going to New York to study with bass master Rufus Reid. Then he moved to Los Angeles and continued to make a name for himself as a jazz bassist. For 20 years he played a major role at a music school in Minneapolis, where he studied and/or taught composition, sonata form, orchestration, and arranging in addition to bass.Terry wrote a four-volume bass method called “The Bass: A Comprehensive Approach.” He has always been drawn to orchestral music, and has released 2 records so far that have utilized his orchestral writing, string arranging and programming in Logic Pro. He adds stellar musicians to that process. Burns has won multiple New Mexico Music Awards for his recordings, “Llano” and “Behind The Mask,” and may yet win more kudos for “Particles,” his newest release. Burns has been a professional musician for well over 40 years. He has worked with and recorded with some of the biggest names in Jazz including Mike Stern, Gene Harris, Dewey Redman, Lee Konitz, Marlena Shaw, Jane Monheit, Billy Hart, Freddie Hubbard, Dave Stryker and David “Fathead” Newman.
Julie and Terry’s musical collaboration and friendship has spanned decades. It is only right it should be embodied in this stunning new album, “The Price We Pay For Love,” the title being a phrase often used to describe grief. “At this point in our lives, we both have experienced plenty,” Terry says, having lost his mother and catalyst to his life in music in 2019. The songs they loved in common began to reveal themselves and they were arranged and recorded starting in 2020 upon Julie’s move from Nashville to the Jemez Mountains in New Mexico. Terry lives just an hour away, with a studio in his home, but Julie would still record vocals in her own home studio and upload them to him, since the pandemic was still in full force before vaccine availability. As the tracks took shape the grief-and-love theme became apparent in the many forms of sorrow and joy that can mean.
A hypnotic 7-minute version of Mitchell’s “Hejira” opens the album…Julie remembers hearing filmmaker Monte Hellman (Two Lane Blacktop) say that he liked to open with a slow, meditative scene, to invite the audience to slow down. She and Terry similarly invite the listener in for this luxury ride. The set includes a new song by Julie’s old Austin friend Michael Moss—an ode to being a parent of a grown child, and a song Terry wrote for his mother and others who’ve gone on. There’s a song Julie wrote with Wendy Waldman in 1990 in Franklin TN, when she was compiling songs for the lost Polygram album noted above. Julie wrote lyrics for a John Scofield work from his album “Quiet,” finished lyrics she had begun writing in 1981 for Weather Report’s “A Remark You Made” and also wrote lyrics for a song her friend Karen Hammack, another longtime friend and collaborator, had sent her. There’s the Buddy Johnson standard “Save Your Love For Me,” and a Jimmy Webb tune. A haunting version of Steve Winwood’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” includes the artistry of Greg Leisz on lap steel. It was released widely as a digital single on February 17. Sergio Webb appears on two songs playing slide guitar, and another Nashville guitarist friend Chris Tench adds atmosphere. All guitarists have appeared on many of Christensen’s nine albums.
“I don’t pretend to be able to write a whole album of good songs at a time,” Christensen says. “I'm really inspired by Bonnie Raitt, Joe Ely and others who’ve made their names picking great songs by friends and songwriters others might not know, as if they’re saying, ‘I've gotta let you in on this secret.’ Since I have a voice, I'm going to sing the good songs.” That voice earned her induction into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, as well as a long list of admiring peers and collaborators. Wherever your musical sky reaches you, you’ll thank your lucky stars that Julie Christensen is there to sing to you.
“Julie Christensen is a Nordic Zephyr. Get her!” - Van Dyke Parks Julie is gold. Solid. Gold.” - Chuck Prophet
"It was her ability to sing with conviction in a variety of approaches that made her extraordinary to me.” - Todd Rundgren
"Julie Christensen is a singer who paints the moon every time she gets near a microphone. Maybe that's because songs run through her veins, whether she writes them or chooses them…Her voice remains a miracle.” - Bill Bentley, author/writer/A&R
“…a tremendous stylist. She holds within the grain of her voice elegance, grace, sass, sensuality, and spit.” - Thom Jurek, AllMusic.com
There might just be another album released in 2023 that is as absolutely amazing as Julie Christensen’s new set, but there most definitely won’t be one that is better. This is a time-stopper set of songs that just keep getting more and more overwhelming the more often it is heard. Really. -- Bill Bentley, Bentley's Bandstand on Americana Highways
“Her voice is warm without losing its command. It’s authority. She sings like she knows what it’s like to have stood with her feet in a cold puddle at midnight, toes squishy & wet. Still being able to feel the beauty of the street, its warm breeze & its dark silence.”—John Apice, Americana Highways
New bio on AllMusic (hadn’t been updated in about 20 years, and now totally up-to-speed)
Her exquisite vocals reveal the moody essence of each song and the bass playing and string arrangements of longtime collaborator Terry Lee Burns are a perfect fit. -Jeff Burger Americana Highways
"There is so much to like and appreciate here; but only if you have an open and free-thinking mind as it’s mature in every which way, occasionally poetic in structure, certainly Jazz influenced; ‘uneasy’ listening at times but always fascinating and heartfelt." - Alan the Rocking Magpie
"Her soulful singing is consistent throughout, from the nocturnal musings of “Save Your Love For Me” and “A Remark You Made” to the quiet, contemplative delivery that marks “Goldbridge Road” and the pensive approach that defines “How He Lost Her”, one of two original co-writes." - Lee Zimmerman, The Alternate Root
"'There’s a lot of love in it,' says Christensen. To fully appreciate that love, listeners are advised to set time aside and listen with focused attention. This is not a cleaning-the-house album. It requires close listening, and it will repay that in spades...The Price We Pay for Love is freighted with feeling, and if the listener approaches it with focused attention, the album will deepen their day."--Mel Minter
Musically Speaking Mel Minter
"As a singer, songwriter and musician, Julie has never confined herself to one sound or genre. Content to color outside the lines she’s created some sui generis soundscapes along the way. She has characterized this sound as “Great Plains Soul,” which feels wildly apropos. The Price We Pay For Love is shot-through with grit, gravitas and grace." - Eleni P Austin
Eleni P Austin, Coachella Weekly
"She’s been doing this a long time — you may or may not recognize her as a pillar of the 1980s Los Angeles punk scene and founding member of Divine Horsemen — and you can hear her experience in every note she sings. Notable sidemen include bassist/arranger Terry Lee Burns and slide player Greg Leisz, and all of the settings place her voice in the musical equivalent of a velvet jewel box. Recommended to all libraries." - Rick Anderson
Rick Anderson CD Hotlist
"I love when Julie Christensen delivers a good jazz vocal performance, as she does on her special cover of Weather Report’s “A Remark You Made.” That song was originally an instrumental, but Julie Christensen has added her own set of lyrics to it." - Michael Doherty
Michael Doherty Music Log
Here are some other links to "11 From Kevin-Songs Of Kevin Gordon" press
"Christensen has most recently been heard from as a member of Divine Horsemen with their album Hot Rise of an Ice Cream Phoenix. Here she performs more or less in the same style of Divine Horsemen as she honors Nashville songwriter Kevin Gordon with a superb set featuring cuts like the slow and ominous "Fire at the End of the World," the rocking Americana of "Find My Way" and the indictment of television evangelists, megalomaniac politicians and others that populate "Gloryland." Pedal steel weeps in the background as Julie sings a cool medley featuring the old school country of "Heart's Not in It" and the Americana of "Down to the Well." The combination of Gordon's strong songwriting skills and Christensen's emotive vocal stylings will have many calling this effort a masterpiece, and rightfully so."--Kevin Wierzbicki, antimusic
"What an inspired idea. Julie Christensen, who has never let a thing hem her in, decided to record an album of songs written and co-written by Kevin Gordon, and set about giving the Louisiana artist some new attention. It’s long deserved. Gordon is an artist of all trades, from painting to poetry to American music from way down in the swampland. Christensen’s voice is a perfect fit for expanding what Gordon has done, taking it to an audience that likely hadn’t heard him much before. Her gorgeous vocals capture the rapture of the Louisiana man’s virtues, and take them to a place where the sky is the limit. She is also able to inject the 11 songs with a realistic sense of drama that isn’t heard everyday. “Fire at the End of the World” is one of the many standouts, conveying a sense of how life in small American towns can rise to a boiling level, leaving all kinds of emotional uproar. In some ways, this album is like a dramatic exploration of what is going on in America: things are getting crispy and there doesn’t seem any solution to rolling things back. Gordon is the perfect songwriter to express all this semi-turmoil and give a hint of optimism that maybe there is a way to the other side. Or maybe not. What is absolutely obvious is that no one except Kevin Gordon has taken on this telescopic perspective looking out from Louisiana. All the musicians on 11 FROM KEVIN have instantly tapped into the beauty of the music from the Pelican State, and helped Julie Christensen create an astonishing album that may not offer any answers but sure make the questions unable to resist pondering. Paradise or bust."
--Bill Bentley, Bentley's Bandstand, AMERICANA HIGHWAYS
"Gordon is a genuine adept in constructing complex, affecting experiences from the sparest, resonating observations. Then, there’s Christensen, who penetrates to the heart of every song, and in whose voice you can hear a deep correspondence with the material. Oh, and her incomparable phrasing mines the deepest meaning from the lyrics, turning exquisite songwriting into an incandescent experience. Listen to how she elongates the word “Runnin’ ” in “Joey and Clara,” capturing not only the physical action but the emotional action, too. Much of Gordon’s power is held in the choruses, and Christensen honors them with exceptional empathy, their recurrence building layers of feeling in every song. She’s fearless and all in, and she takes you with her." --Mel Minter, MUSICALLY SPEAKING
A Fine Tribute to Kevin Gordon
Good idea—and Christensen, who has worked as a backup vocalist for Leonard Cohen, proves fully up to the task on 11 from Kevin.
Gordon—whose own latest album, Tilt and Shine, is well worth seeking out—is indeed a remarkable songwriter. Drawing often on his own experiences, he produces lyrically economical compositions that paint vivid pictures of faith healers, small towns, suffering souls, and lost loves. Several of his songs cast a cynical eye on preachers and faith healers, including “Gloryland” which echoes the phrasing of Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody,” and the trumpet-spiced “Following a Sign.”
Christensen understands this music well enough to capture its spirit. She is an assertive singer, and her nuanced vocals and muscular band, Stone Cupid, are an excellent match for the material. Like Gordon’s own work, these performances occasionally flirt with folk but are mostly grounded in rock. The best of them, such as the aforementioned “Following a Sign” and “Goodnight Brownie Ford,” about an encounter with an aged Native American character, are pure gold. -- Jeff Burger, AMERICANA HIGHWAYS: Burger On The Record
"With a distinctive style cultivated in the same musical soil as Bonnie Bramlett, her daughter Bekka, Christine Collister & Little Feat female vocalist Shaun Murphy — Julie Christensen is gifted with a similar smoky stylistic vocal tone. Whiskey smooth with ¼ soul, ¼ chanteuse, ¼ alt-country & ¼ your mama’s late-night lullaby voice." -- John Apice, AMERICANA HIGHWAYS
"Nearly 30 years after his first album, Gordon should be better known, as should Christensen, who was a staple in the Los Angeles punk and jazz scenes before her extraordinary collaborations with Leonard Cohen, and then a solo career. But these things happen. Now comes a record that adroitly fuses Christensen’s exploratory vocals with Gordon’s vividly drawn emotional and physical landscapes. The result brings out the best in both of them, especially in the way Christensen unearths veins of gold that were hiding in plain sight." -- Amos Perrine, NO DEPRESSION
"On the 8-plus minute “Hearts Not In It/ Down to the Well” Christensen gives a vocal performance for the ages and the stunning “Gatling Gun” is just about perfect. The best thing a tribute album like this can do it urge me to want to explore the artist in questions original material, which I now want to do. Great job, Julie and crew." --Daggerzine
"The criminally underappreciated Divine Horsemen vocalist spotlights the work of an equally deserving singer-songwriter with this heartfelt and haunting tribute album." -- Darryl Sterdan, Tinnitist.com
"I feel a bit guilty saying that Julie Christensen has been a ‘discovery’ to me …. and hopefully you too; as she’s been in and around the scene for ‘many moons’ … but she has been a discovery and a great one too; plus listening to Kevin Gordon’s fine songs in this format has been an absolute blast – congratulations to everyone concerned." -- Rocking Magpie (UK)
“When singer, and sometime insurgent, Julie Christensen chose to make an entire album dedicated to the songs of Kevin Gordon, it led to an ideal dynamic…enabling her to draw on [the music’s] passion and pathos with equal measures of deliberation and determination…Hopefully then, 11 From Kevin: Songs of Kevin Gordon will bring further attention to both of the artists involved, and, in turn, bring them some added appreciation. Reverence and respect go hand in hand, and in this case, it makes for nothing less than an absolutely inspired combination.”
— Lee Zimmerman, The Alternate Root
The Second Disc
Rock 'n' Roll Truth
“Julie Christensen is a singer who paints the moon every time she gets near a microphone. Maybe that's because songs run through her veins, whether she writes them or chooses them. It's not hard to discover today who's up there on the tightrope risking their lives to stay in the music business, because for them there is no other way to live. …Christensen sounds as new as tomorrow. … her voice remains a miracle. And she'll take you there too. ” - Bill Bentley, author/writer/A&R