Julia Blair’s ‘better out than in’ (Released on Crutch of Memory Enterprises)

A monthly column for vinyl enthusiasts from vinyl enthusiast Tom Smith

The front cover of Julia Blair’s ‘better out than in’. Tom Smith Photo

Record Review

This is the debut solo record by Appleton’s own Julia Blair, but it’s definitely not the area’s first exposure to her.

Blair is known far and wide for her key role in one of Wisconsin’s (and the entire world’s) best bands, Dusk. I just had the extreme fortune to see Blair perform with Dusk April 30 at The Lyric Room (when the band opened for the Figgs).

Every time I see Dusk, not only do I forget how much I love them, but I swear they get better each time. They also add a new flavor or change other things up a bit, making each time I see them a stand alone memorable performance.

Number one:

Spoiler alert: Blair is also awesome solo. In addition to lead and background vocals, she plays a number of different instruments on this album, including Wurlitzer and Fender Rhodes electric piano, acoustic piano, Hammond organ, synthesizer, Marsona 1200 chimes, auxiliary percussion, viola, violin, cello and electric guitar.

Number two:

Blair wrote six of the 11 songs on this album and co-wrote three more of them.

Number three:

Blair had help from some pretty prestigious Wisconsin musicians on this album – well-known characters such as Amos Pitsch (who wrote two of the songs on this album and co-wrote three), Ridley Tankersley, Andy Harris, Colin Wilde (who also co-wrote one song), Frank Anderson, Luke Younggren and Tyler Ditter.

Number four:

This album was recorded and mixed by Pitsch with Blair at Crutch Of Memory Studios in Appleton. I’m also happy to mention it was mastered by Justin Perkins.

Number five:

If you are already a fan of Blair in Dusk, I’m positive you can stop reading this review right now and go buy this record.

For those of you not familiar with Dusk please read on. I have always described Dusk as if roxy music was from the Midwest (Appleton in particular), and they played an Americana alt-country that has its foundation in punk rock.

I could probably mention many other super cool artists (some very obscure or some considered the hipster artists you would currently mention in record review situations such as this), but I’m not going to.

Straight from my gut, this quite wonderful music on this album reminds me of Emmylou Harris, Maria Mckee, Natalie Merchant, Natalie Maines and Carly Simon.

The song on the album that probably inspires me to say Carly Simon is “Fantasize” (check out the video for this song on YouTube, it features an appearance by Lily the Cat).

Number six:

I’ve never known Blair to be vain, but this record review is about her. If you purchase many albums on Bloodshot Records, I also think you will love this album.

Number seven:

I give this album 11 out of 11 stars.

Number eight:

Other songs that jump out at me on this album are “Wanderin’,” “Just a Cue,” “Relax,” “Away,” “Make the Darkness Go” and “Waste Away.”

If you purchase three albums in 2022 make sure that better out than in by Julia Blair is one of them. The other two are, of course, Bear Grease by Jeremy Scott and the self-titled release by Hue Blanc’s Joyless Ones (no word on Goner Fest yet).

Next month, I’ll be reviewing the new compact disc by Mark Steven Hillstrom (who happens to be the manager of The Exclusive Company in Appleton), Live Long and Prosper.

Tom Smith is the store manager at Green Bay’s Exclusive Company. He has a cast knowledge and a lifelong love of vinyl.

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