Julie Black sings the kind of blues that demand a specific innate knowledge of vocal delivery; where to slow down, where to go low, where to kick in the jazz. She’s the Tampa area singer whose songwriting chops are of such a high degree that for a moment you think you are hearing a cover–you aren’t, it’s a Black original.
Black played the Free Fridays concert to a crowd of fans that has been growing since her first appearance here in 2007. This time around, she drew over 400 concertgoers to the venue that is normally a showcase for local musicians. In her third outing on the Plaza stage, Black proved that her North Central Florida fanbase is growing. She also proved that she can hold the audience for the duration of the two-hour show.
Black is a big gal with a big voice whose body and face convey nearly as much musical expression as her vocal chords. Her sound is likened in the press to Etta James and Janis Joplin, but the radiance of her delivery calls to mind Cass Elliot. Black has the same engaging ability to draw a listener into her performance that Elliot had, and also the same knack for smoothly interpreting lyrics.
Black’s nimble, jazz-inflected delivery in a vernacular that can be challenging to sing belies her abilities as a songwriter. She writes radio-ready blues songs with a brilliant grasp of the form. These appear on her two CDs ( 2007’s “Call Me Angel for Blues” and 2009’s “You Just Might Win”). Where the blues can spill into excess, Black holds back just enough; as a songwriter and as a performer, she shimmies with a knowing restraint.
Although there is no doubt that Black is the star of the show, her band deserves mention for their technical prowess and for their supple sound. At the Plaza concert, both guitarist Dave Eichenberger and keyboardist Michael Johnn contributed stunning virtuosity. Johnn ripped a solo across his keyboard that had the crowd applauding and Eichenberger is an intellectual player so at one with his instrument that he appeared to be willing sound from his thought processes. The whole band let Black shine in her firmament, providing a strong backbone as Black used her body to convey emotion. She’s ballsy, but in a womanly way; unlike a lot of singers who function in terms of visiblity, Black functions as a fifth instrument in a highly tuned unit while going through a physically dynamic process that transcends mere performance.
You can catch up with Julie on September 25th at the Tangerine Festival in Gulfport, FL or on October 9th at the Cotee River Bike Fest in New Port Richey, FL. More information at www.angelforblues.com