Girl Crush: Julie Christensen’s Stone Cupid with Natalie D-Napoleon
The monthly music series Sings Like Hell has been setting the stage of Santa Barbara’s historic Lobero Theater alight for almost 20 years. In that time it has presented some of the greatest names in Americana music. It’s an impressive alumni that has not only included icons such as Emmylou Harris, Guy Clark, Ralph Stanley, David Crosby, and Jesse Winchester, but emerging luminaries like Damien Rice, Neil Finn, and Rufus Wainwright. This month the musical diversity that has defined the series was taken a step further when the stage was turned over to two local songstresses.
Natalie D-Napoleon is an Australian singer-songwriter from Perth who transplanted her musical career to Santa Barbara almost a decade ago. Much like the album, “Leaving Me Dry,” from which many of the night’s songs were drawn, the bare-bones nature of her brooding contemplations on love and life came wrapped in an equally rustic orchestration. Accompanied by Dan Phillips who shuffled between piano and percussion (and tempered his warm and empathetic backing vocals perfectly) and upright-bassist and banjo player Jim Connolly, the trio rattled off a no-nonsense set of inflicting Americana-infused balladry. D-Napoleon’s voice boomed from the stage, gloriously filling the caveness theater with her trademark sultry seduction. The jangly “Don’t Be Scared,” complete with a Santa Barbara reference that raised hoots and hollers from the hometown audience, banjo-driven “Well Song,” and countrified “After the Flood,” were particular standouts within the set.
Whereas D-Napoleon seduced the audience with subtlety and finess, the now Nashville-based former local, Julie Christensen, was determined to rock the crowd to its core. With her band, Stone Cupid, which featured the guitar tag team of guitarists Sergio Webb and Chris Tench, drummer Steve Latanation and bassist Greg Boaz, Christensen left no doubt surrounding the potency of the ensemble’s forthcoming album. “The Cardinal.”
Along with the album’s title track, the set was populated with rollicking renditions of songs from the album, including the sumblimely executed “Broken Wing” and “Gasoline.” Tucked among the band’s original material was an intriguing selection of cover versions. Chuck Prophet’s cleverly insightful “Would You Live Me?” was all the more passionate when belted out by Christensen as was Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem.” A longtime Cohen backing vocalist, Christensen is certainly no stranger to the song, but with Stone Cupid behind her Cohen’s composition was all the more anthemic. With the band blasting out its rhythms throughout the night, Christensen was with them every step of the way. When not armed with an acoustic guitar she was the ultimate frontperson, her stage presence swinging and swaying with the tempo of the musical tone. And, just like her backing band, Christensen’s voice was a force of nature, cutting a defiant path straight to the heart of the listensers.