Julianna Riolino - All Blue Music Album Reviews

Julianna Riolino - All Blue Music Album Reviews
The Toronto singer-songwriter channels cosmic country on her debut album. Recorded live in the studio, it’s a promising showcase of both her nimble voice and her band’s dynamic playing.

Julianna Riolino’s All Blue feels wonderfully out of time: The Toronto alt-country musician’s solo debut sounds like Dolly Parton hanging out in Laurel Canyon in 1972—or perhaps 2032. Like Parton, Riolino layers and harmonizes her voice—the most fine-tuned instrument on All Blue—until it sounds as big as your feelings for a long-lost love. Both are performers who play the sentimentalist smiling through the sadness, the most fitting form of melancholy for country music. But Riolino’s flavor of country is more cosmic; like fellow troubadours Tobacco City and Daniel Romano—Riolino was a member of his band the Outfit—she also invokes a starry-eyed ’60s folk sensibility without appearing overtly nostalgic. You’ve heard these sounds before, but their familiarity is a strength, even when All Blue plays it a little safe.

Riolino made the wise decision to record most of All Blue live. Producer Aaron Goldstein, a gifted pedal-steel player who has been associated with Cowboy Junkies and Ducks Ltd., understands that these 11 songs are best heard while swaying in place; the playing is as compelling as the songwriting. This is a testament to the performance of Riolino and her bandmates, especially Thomas Hammerton on keyboards and Anthony Ronaldi doing a few light Exile on Main St.-era Bobby Keys impressions on baritone saxophone. All Blue is at its best when it leans into this more rockin’ flavor of honky tonk, as on “Lone Ranger” (“Lend me your kisses, and dismiss me when you fear,” she sings like a dare), or in the T. Rex stomp and wails on “Why Do I Miss You.” At the other end of the spectrum, Riolino adopts an Aimee Mann-like delivery on “Hark!,” singing about a celestial dream as if it was just some passing sign on the highway.

When the album lags, it’s usually from an aggressive case of sameness or overreliance on an unchanging midtempo gait. This can plague even the best of the alt-country elite (see Wilco’s Cruel Country from this year). By the end of “Long Feeling,” the fatigue of one verse too many feels just grating enough to elicit a sigh. But the song that immediately follows, “You,” is the album’s highlight, by far the most fun and realized Riolino performance on the record. It’s straight-up power pop in which she sneaks surprising lines (“Everyone is fine until they are drowning in someone”) into wordless ’60s girl-group choruses. The drummer is finally awake, and the entrance of the 12-string recalls the twinkling 12-strings that elevate Phoebe Bridgers’ “Motion Sickness,” except Riolino and her bandmates are driving way past the speed limit.

“You” is the one great moment on a promising debut album with many good ones. And though there may only be a handful of truly memorable songs, the atmosphere of Riolino’s carefully crafted cosmic country lingers in the mind.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Julianna Riolino - All Blue Music Album Reviews Julianna Riolino - All Blue Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on October 31, 2022 Rating: 5


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