Julie Winn is an empathic individual with an unrelenting message of love. The local songwriter's debut album, Music Saves the Soul, is a testament to her devotion to spreading that message through music. Winn relies on classic folk and blues composition as a platform for her radiant voice and reverent lyricism. The 11-track album holds impeccable vocal harmonies layered over familiar chord progressions, creating a sound that is soothing yet sorrowful.
These songs are inspired by an awareness of human struggle and are well informed by Winn's former job as a caseworker at the Committee on Temporary Shelter. Throughout Music Saves the Soul, it's apparent that her time working with a segment of the public suffering most gravely has inspired her to turn to music to heal and process.
"Stone Pillows" is a powerful example. During her time at COTS, Winn worked with a client named Billy Pitts. After a long and successful recovery, Pitts suffered a tragic death. Only days before his death, he had given Winn a poem about his lifelong struggle with homelessness, titled "Stone Pillows." He wished for it to be made into a song. The result is a heart-wrenching ballad that recalls the morose coffeehouse style of Mazzy Star.
The album opens with "Don't Be Afraid," an encouraging song with a violin arrangement by Emma Sky and the intricate vocal harmonies of Winn and backing singers Emily Rozanski and Amy Patrick. The latter two voices grace much of the album, creating a dynamic not unlike folk power trio Joseph. Conor McQuade adds wails of twangy lead guitar, giving waltz-like pieces an alt-country feel.
Loyal to the classic folk form, Winn uses repetitive phrasing to frame lyrics that are easy to sing along with and remember. She leads a call for liberation on "Free," chanting, "Time to live and breathe." The concept of reconnecting to self and having space to breathe resurfaces on "Light," a slow-swaying country spiritual.
Music Saves the Soul was cleanly recorded and partially mixed by Winn's partner, Bren Hatch, in their home studio following a successful Kickstarter project. The album was impeccably mixed and mastered by Ben Collette at Tank Recording Studio.
You can catch Julie Winn live and pick up a copy of Music Saves the Soul on Saturday, August 27, during her album release at Radio Bean in Burlington. After that, the album will be available at Pure Pop Records in Burlington and as a digital download on iTunes.