06 December 2006


This girl, my friends, is the Real McCoy. She's Julie Lee. Her words, melodies and chords make my heart bleed, simply and slowly. Go to www.myspace.com/stillhouseroad and hear for yourself. We all need a little yawning, crying sensation in the chest sometimes. The birds chirping wildly and the hollow, maybe-next-door windchimes in her "Morning" tune are bright reminders that stunning music can sometimes begin with a little plaintive morning strumming on the porch. What better place for the inception of soul-altering fare. Her voice is just the finest -- untainted, raw beauty. "Will there ever be a morning?"

About a year ago, a mutual friend of mine and Julie's called me and asked if i'd like to help cater for her Stillhouse Road CD release party. I was the little okra girl. I fried some serious amounts of okra. Okra was my name, frying was my game. You get the picture. We worked behind the famed beer counter in the back corner of this establishment, where there was a sticker on the refrigerator that read, "squirrels: just life's little speedbumps." And on the cooler was a laminated notice that said, "keep your fat ass off the beer cooler." We worked alongside a hard-yet-soft woman with a smoker's cough named Lin who has worked there for 20 years. She's a lively character and has no time for those who come in and ask for "just a cup of ice water." She says, "they're the ones who come in for the free food and then they probably don't even buy her cd. Bastards." She ate her weight in our okra but gave us free beer.

We also served moonshine-glazed ham, cornbread, black-eyed peas, homemade pickles, and cobbler. There were wildflowers in Mason jars (arranged by Sweet June) and candles on every wobbly, truck-stop-restaurant-reject table. The place glowed with the beauty of the fact that all of her friends came together to make this a more unique experience than just your run-of-the-mill release party (and she worked her fingers to the bone, too), because we love her and believe profoundly in her talent and her spirit. This all took place at the Station Inn -- a hole-in-the-wall, small, squarish stone structure downtown by the railroad tracks that you'd never guess was the institution that it is.

Any bluegrass musician worth his or her salt has played at the Station Inn. It's got rich history. The stage is just a tiny platform in a room with low ceilings which is lit only by the buzzing glow of neon beer signs. But it came to life when this mix of young and old genius musicians took over. They spilled over the edges -- they and their instruments barely fitting on stage -- and dazzled us. As I sat listening with tears in my eyes, her sad, silvery voice soared and enchanted everyone in the room. She stood in her red satin dress and chocolate velvet coat, and with every turn of her head, and as she would offer an earnest smile to some fortunate audience member, she revealed a crimson flower tucked into her hair. She sparkled. Maybe it was partly that Mason jar moonshine...