After missing from the Nashville scene for five years, Julie Roberts released her third studio album “Alive” in June of this year. This time, her album was released independently instead of on the Mercury Nashville label like her two prior records. Unlike her sophomore album, you can tell that she meant every lyric she sings this time around.
Her self-titled debut record was certified gold, and “Break Down Here” was a top 20 hit for the blonde songstress. It peaked at #18 on the Billboard Country Chart and #81 on the Billboard top 100 chart. The song was actually a cover of Trace Adkins’ “I’d Sure Hate To Break Down Here.” It was an impressive debut for the singer, who unfortunately struggled with her next few releases. After her second album, “Men & Mascara,” in which she didn’t seem as comfortable with, she split from her label in May 2010. Roberts took some time off to deal with the Nashville floods last year that she had become a victim of, and also to learn to deal with the heartbreaking diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
Roberts released “Alive” as an independent artist and came back to country music stronger than ever. Now in full control of her image, her songs, and what she was recording, it’s obvious how much more she believes in what she sings. The down-to-earth, religious young woman is a talent to be feared. With her strong, bluesy vocals, it’s a wonder why she was never bigger than she was when she was signed to a major label. You can tell that the experiences she has gone through the last few years have made her not only a stronger artist, but a stronger woman as well.
The album opens up with the up-tempo “Mama Said Don’t.” It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album, a rebellious tune about how a daughter never listened to the things her mother warned her about and always did the opposite of what she was told. Roberts wrote this with her two friends Rachel Proctor and Victoria Banks, who also collaborated on another track on “Alive.” Her vocals just scream country, and this rocker of a song definitely has some future single potential. It’s a great way to kick off a great album. While the track doesn’t showcase all of what her voice can do, it’s a great way to introduce the album.
”Stronger” is an autobiographical tune that reinforces how much stronger she is after what she has gone through. Roberts admitted that her confidence was shaken after her second album, thanks in part to her health and because of what she was forced to sing. The track was co-written with the Grammy-winning Don Schlitz. It’s an emotional, powerful song where Roberts seems her most vulnerable. It’s much stronger than her last album, since you can tell she really does believe and feel every line of the song.
“Alive” is another one of the beautiful songs on the album that showcases how powerful Roberts’ vocals really are. The title track for the album is a haunting tune about being so far away from someone, or something, you love but you know they’re right beside you every step of the way. It’s another song that I would love to see released to radio, and I think it would have a strong chance at rising up the charts, independent release or not. Her voice reminds of me Jewel on parts of this song, but much stronger and clearer. It’s one of the prettier songs on Roberts’ third release.
”Yesterday’s Blue” is a bluesy-country track where her voice really shines. The song fits her voice perfectly, and I’d love to see her tackle some more tracks closer to this. There’s not many artists in country today that have such a soulful, powerful, blues voice like Roberts does. It’s close to Jewel, like I said earlier, but more controlled and smoother. This song tells a story of a break-up between a couple who finally called it off, and who’s going to get what while she sleeps “like a baby.”
“Ain’t No Thing” is another song that you can dance to. It’s not a groundbreaking track by any means, but it fits in well with this album. It’s something that Dierks Bentley would release, or maybe even the Dixie Chicks back in the early 2000′s. It’s a cute fast-tempo that shows off her playful side.
“Let’s Fight” is a groovy little tune about a woman sick of being ignored by her lover, so she wants to fight with him so they can make-up for it later that weekend. The lyrics are smart, and her voice is sultry. I think it would be a great choice for a single, since there aren’t many songs like this on the radio today: in terms of sound or topic. It’s a positive change from the usual love song on country radio today. “Let’s Fight” is a sexy little song with great potential and Roberts controls her vocals with confidence on the track. It’s one of the stronger songs on the album.
“Whiskey And You” is a pretty song, but unfortunately it’s just one too many ballads on the album. Her vocals explode in the chorus, and the lyrics are smart, but the song may be skipped over since there are so many slower tempo tracks on the album already. It’s still a beautiful song, and her voice is spot on, but there’s already a handful of slow songs on “Alive” that it loses some of its appeal.
“Carolina From My Soul” is a song where Roberts proudly sings about where she’s from and no matter how far away she is from Carolina, that she’ll always be a Carolina girl. It opens with a piano, which at times is louder than her vocals on the verses. It’s a solid track that people can relate to who have had to move away where they’re from but still remember where they’re from. It’s a different take on the small town girl theme, although it’s probably not single material, it’s still a nice addition to the album as a whole. After everything she has been through, she once again proves that she knows who she is and won’t forget that.
”Nascar Party” closes off the album with her current single. I wasn’t sure what to think of the single at first by just looking at the cheesy title, but it’s much better than I had expected. It’s a song about her love for racing. It’s one of the few toe tapping songs on the album, and even for someone who isn’t a fan of Nascar, it’s a cute little single promoting the race track. I don’t know if I personally would have chosen it as a single, since it sounds like something for a younger singer than Roberts, but it works with her vocals.
Overall, this is a much more solid album than her other releases under a record label. Roberts shines as an independent artist in full control of her career. Her confidence shows now, and it’s sad to know that she had lost her confidence as a singer during her sophomore album. If you like artists like Kellie Pickler or Jewel then this is definitely something you should check out. She also offers autographed copies of her albums if you buy them from her website instead of other retailers.
Roberts voice is magical and something that many of the bigger stars today wish they had. It’s not something that can be taught, it’s a gift and a talent. Even if she doesn’t get back on to a major recording label, it might be better for the long run in terms of her artistry. After everything this woman’s been through, it helped her put together a solid album that she has to be proud of.
“Alive” is available now, and it’s a smart purchase to make through her official website since she will autograph the copy for you.
RATING: 7.5 out of 10
DOWNLOAD: Mama Said Don’t, Stronger, Alive, Let’s Fight.