Out of all those singer-songwriters of ‘90s NYC, I’m so glad that one has stayed true to her craft and continues to produce great albums. Minnesota transplant Julia Douglass has a supremely engaging storyteller’s gift–and a far better sense of humor than Bob Dylan and far less anger than Alanis Morissette. She also has this artful way of surprising you with non-melodic moments that demand attention and reward you with insight. Very glad that her peregrinations have brought her back to NYC–where she clearly belongs–a second time and that she’s releasing her album this month. Minnesota: NYers win!
Want to witness Julia Douglass’s awesomeness live? She will be performing with cellist Jacqueline Ultan, Sunday, November 15, 2015 at The Living Room in Brooklyn, NY.
~Victoria C. Rowan, Ideasmyth Creatrix-in-Chief
Yes. Sometimes one needs to visit the scene of the crime to finish something. The song “Black Watch Kilt” is about my friend Carol. I had been trying for years to write about my friend Carol. She was my roommate in college. A remarkably brilliant, bossy woman who had a huge cackling laugh that would just erupt out of her without warning. She was remarkable to me because at a young age she knew who she was and she was not afraid to be herself. She was comfortable in her own skin when I met her when we were eighteen. She may have always been that way. But from my experience most eighteen-year-olds are not what I would consider comfortable in their own skin. I certainly wasn’t. But Carol knew what she wanted and she didn’t really care what anyone thought. She was a gifted storyteller. She was just entertainment. You did need to go to a movie or read a novel. You could just call her and in a twenty-minute conversation you’d get it all. Bathos, pathos, Greek tragedy, and comedia dell’arte, wrapped up in some kind of modern day Aesop’s fable. She’d give you some alarmingly juicy gossip that you would never dare repeat, yet it was never hurtful or malicious. It would be the kind of tidbits that walked that fine line between a guilty pleasure and something you wish you had not heard. But never crossed it.
When I was living in New York I had received a email from her sister telling me of her shocking and unexpected death from a heart attack at age 42, leaving behind a husband and three children. After that I tried to write a song about her, but could never finish it, even though I had possibly close to a hundred versions. It was when I moved back home that I was able to finish the song. I used the words from the email her sister wrote as the lyrics. It kind of wrote itself then.
“Black Watch Kilt”
Sorry to let you know this way
Didn’t have your number something happened today
and we couldn’t find a black watch kilt for her
so she’s wearing navy blue
I remember visiting the two of you
at Middlebrook Hall never knew what you’d be up to
after class, you both the same, dancing around to ‘You’re So Vain’
wearing navy blue
little Annie found her by the stairs
we think five hundred people will be there
she’ll be laid to rest at the Fort, you know the one, by the airport
wearing navy blue
we’ve looked and looked for it everywhere
a black watch kilt we know that’s what she would want to wear
but we’re running out of time, really hope she doesn’t mind
that she’s wearing navy blue
In memory of Carol Ratelle Leach
~~~Originally a classical musician, Julia Douglass won a scholarship to the Yale School of Music in the French Horn. Upon graduation she immediately quit the French Horn and embarked on her singer songwriter career in New York City. Her music has been described by Billboard Magazine as “a sterling collection of memorable melodies with lyrics that depict thoughtful, touching, amusing and above all, uncannily true pictures of contemporary American life.”
She has been described as having a similar sensibilities of 60s folkie Melanie, Randy Newman and Loudon Wainwright. She lives in the New York area and performs frequently.