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Introspective singer-songwriter Julie Byrne uses her new album to explore love, meaning, and purpose

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Singer Julie Byrne uses her lovely recent album Not Even Happiness (Ba Da Bing) as a kind of introspective travelogue, a search across this big country of ours for love, meaning, and purpose. Her delicate, misty voice tells cryptic stories as though it’s whispering directly in the ear of the listener. On the ethereal “Natural Blue” she offers context for her wandering when she sings, “Back on tour / Driving through southwestern towns,” but it’s the next verse that provides a greater sense of purpose. She sings, “When I first saw you / The sky, it was such a natural blue,” and in a number of songs it’s the presence of another person that defines her seeking. In the remarkable “Sleepwalker,” however, she finds a solution within, albeit again in the presence of another: “The one sense of permanence I felt was mine, only beneath your gaze.” Byrne’s gentle vocals get all the support they really need from her simple acoustic guitar strumming—mirroring the lightness of her voice—but here and there gorgeous accents arise, like the pretty flute assonance on “Melting Grid” or the sudden electric guitar twang that ripples through “Sea as It Glides.” Byrne will be joined for her set by touring partner Johanna Warren, who plays second.   v

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