First catching the Julie July Band some five years ago at Warwick Folk Festival and immediately being drawn to their Sandy Denny tribute, I’ve been keeping a keen eye on this band’s progress ever since. Now on to their third album, their first (Who Knows Where The Time Goes) committed the band’s Sandy-themed tribute to disc, while the second (Lady of the First Light) was an album of all-new original material. This latest sees the band writing and performing new material, once more.
The driving duo of Julie July (vocals) and Steve Rezillo (electric guitar/vocals) remain as they have from the very start, with Rezillo also contributing a significant bulk of the songwriting duties. However, there have been a few changes along the way, too. The pair are now joined by Caley Groves (guitar) whose father was Steve Groves, a contemporary of Sandy Denny’s late partner and ex Fotheringay and Fairporter, Trevor Lucas on the Australian folk-rock scene. Also joining them is Dik Cadbury (bass/vocals) who has an impeccable folk-rock pedigree stretching back to his days in Decameron in the 1970s and who has also worked with Steve Hackett. Joining on drums is Mick Candler who began playing in local beat groups in his home city of York back in the early 1960’s, prior to joining the Roll Movement and going on to work with the likes of Decameron, Phil Beer and Steve Knightly. Finally, there is keyboard player and singer-songwriter, Carol Lee Sampson, who contributes keyboards and vocal harmonies on the album.
As with the previous album, all twelve tracks on Wonderland are original songs.
Julie July: “This album is a bit different because the new line-up has five voices so we decided to make more use of these in the songs with harmonies.”
Wonderland represents an evolution of the band in a number of ways. Although the previous album, Lady Of The First Light, was categorically not a Sandy Denny tribute album, her influence was never really very far away. In some ways it felt like a long-lost companion to Sandy Denny’s handful of post-Fotheringay ‘70s solo albums. With Wonderland, however, the band spread their wings further and a more eclectic range of influences are apparent.
It still taps into that rich vein of ‘60s and ‘70s folk rock. But there’s layer upon layer of other influences, too, from prog to blues to polished singer-songwriter to straight-ahead hard rock, and even a hint of Latin here and there. This is a band growing in confidence, reaching into its huge well of collective experience and delivering some fine music, exquisite vocals and harmonies and striking songwriting.
Lyrical themes range from proggy mystical fantasy (‘Labyrinth’), to grappling with the strange realities of human interaction, post-lockdown (’Wonderland’) to the values of a certain former (thankfully) US President (‘Smoke And Mirrors’). It all adds up to a very pleasing third album from the Julie July Band.
Whether performing Sandy Denny’s songs or their own material, this is a band I always enjoy listening to and, after Covid messed up my usual summer festival plans these past couple of years, I now very much look forward to reconnecting with them live again, too.
Released: May 2022