Music

Julie Rhodes: Bound to Meet the Devil

Exhibiting a combination of talent, soul, and grit often unmatched by debuting artists, Julie Rhodes seems poised to become a mainstay in the Americana blues music scene for years to come.


Julie Rhodes

Bound to Meet the Devil

Label: Dirt Floor / FAME
US Release Date: 2016-02-26
Amazon
iTunes

For many, being able to record part of an album at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and to work with a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and a Grammy-award-winning producer would be the apex of a successful musical career. But for New England-based singer Julie Rhodes, it’s just the beginning. On her debut album, Bound to Meet the Devil, Rhodes fits right in with a star-studded cast that includes cameos by Spooner Oldham, Sara Watkins, Greg Leisz, and Sheldon Gomberg. Exhibiting a combination of talent, soul, and grit often unmatched by debuting artists, Rhodes seems poised to become a mainstay in the Americana blues music scene for years to come.

Two years ago, however, all of this would have seemed improbable to Rhodes, as she hadn’t yet written or performed a song. She was slinging ice cream cones and sundaes at an ice cream parlor, spending 50 to 60 hours a week trying to get by. But attending a house show featuring New Jersey-based folksinger Jonah Tolchin changed everything for Rhodes. After Tolchin heard Rhodes sing along to his set, he motivated her to start writing songs herself. Rhodes then embarked on a two year journey of writing and recording, which culminated in the release of Bound to Meet the Devil, an 11-track opus of Americana blues, equal parts traditional and contemporary.

The musical revivalism on Bound to Meet the Devil takes many shades, all of which are colored by Rhodes’s thick vocal strokes. Rhodes and her bandmates resurrect the country gospel anthem in “Faith”, wade through the raw Delta Blues in “Grinnin’ in Your Face” (a Son House cover), pick through the bluegrass textures of “Skyscraper Blues”, and dance among the jazzy funk of “Hurricane.” No matter what genre, Rhodes impresses, her voice combining the husky dynamism of Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard, the brazen wails of Janis Joplin, as well as the sultry swoons of Bonnie Raitt.

The album begins with a swagger. Over the opening stomps and claps of the blues-drenched “In Your Garden”, Rhodes struts her vocal dexterity, intensifying a song about self-confidence in the face of rejection with dogged howls. “Collector Man” is another song that showcases Rhodes’s ability. Over a blend of soul, funk, and harmonica-driven blues, Rhodes applies a velvety vocal touch for much of the song. But during the bluesy deluge of guitar and harmonica at the song’s climax, she unleashes torrents of throaty cries, which signal the desperation with which the song engages issues of working class struggle.

The theme of working class struggle permeates the record, giving it a political edge to match Rhodes’s vocal grit. Throughout, Rhodes develops a playful metaphor that hearkens back to her time working at the ice cream parlor. She refashions the image of scooping ice cream into the labor of digging in “Collector Man” and “Holes”, transforming her own experience in a way that encompasses general working conditions. On “Holes”, for example, she sings about how often people end up working themselves to death: “Sister, quit your diggin’ them holes / If you keep workin’ that shovel / Then you’re bound to meet the devil.” Rhodes’s ability to locate her own particular story within histories of labor and capital even manifests itself on the cover of the album, which depicts her carrying a shovel.

While Rhodes’s vocal virtuosity and lyrical insurgence form the centerpiece of Bound to Meet the Devil, her bandmates sonically hew its edges with similar aplomb. “In Your Garden” features a grungy pentatonic riff that crescendos in a bluesy squall of Jonah Tolchin and Danny Roaman’s dueling guitar solos. Matt Murphy’s driving bassline on “Collector Man” is as propulsive as the song’s train-whistle-like harmonica. Michael Bosco’s syncopated hi-hat rhythms on “Hey Stranger” give the song a particular dancehall vibe, and Doug Moffet’s churning saxophone turns up the funk on “Hurricane.”

Altogether, Bound to Meet the Devil is an Americana blues showcase. Each song summons the ghosts of the celebrated blues past, and Rhodes stands among them, bearing her soul with tremendous skill and confidence. With Bound to Meet the Devil, Julie Rhodes is certainly bound for success.

9
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.

Music

Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.

Film

Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.

Music

Inventions' 'Continuous Portrait' Blurs the Grandiose and the Intimate

Explosions in the Sky and Eluvium side project, Inventions are best when they are navigating the distinction between modes in real-time on Continuous Portrait.

Music

Willie Jones Blends Country-Trap With Classic Banjo-Picking on "Trainwreck" (premiere)

Country artist Willie Jones' "Trainwreck" is an accessible summertime breakup tune that coolly meshes elements of the genre's past, present, and future.

Music

2011's 'A Different Compilation' and 2014 Album 'The Way' Are a Fitting Full Stop to Buzzcocks Past

In the conclusion of our survey of the post-reformation career of Buzzcocks, PopMatters looks at the final two discs of Cherry Red Records' comprehensive retrospective box-set.

Music

Elysia Crampton Creates an Unsettlingly Immersive Experience with ​'Ocorara 2010'

On Ocorara 2010, producer Elysia Crampton blends deeply meditative drones with "misreadings" of Latinx poets such as Jaime Saenz and Juan Roman Jimenez

Music

Indie Folk's Mt. Joy Believe That Love Will 'Rearrange Us'

Through vibrant imagery and inventive musicality, Rearrange Us showcases Americana band Mt. Joy's growth as individuals and musicians.

Music

"Without Us? There's No Music": An Interview With Raul Midón

Raul Midón discusses the fate of the art in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. "This is going to shake things up in ways that could be very positive. Especially for artists," he says.

Music

The Fall Go Transatlantic with 'Reformation! Post-TLC'

The Fall's Reformation! Post-TLC, originally released in 2007, teams Mark E. Smith with an almost all-American band, who he subsequently fired after a few months, leaving just one record and a few questions behind.

Film

Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.

Film

The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.