Monica Sorenson has an amazing voice that sounds like no one else, but evokes great female singers ranging from the queens of early blues to mid-century rockers like Ann Wilson and Chrissie Hynde, popular singers like Cher and Dolly, and even jazzier voices like Ricky Lee Jones. Combine that voice with lyrics that embrace a sense of mystery, a talented rock song writer like Rick Walker, a tight, talented band . . . and well you’ve got something pretty good.
In 2012, Rick and Monica met by chance and formed a song writing duo, releasing their first album a couple of years later. Soon, they added a band; released more albums; and the San Diego music scene hasn’t been the same since. I first met these guys around 2016 when my band opened for them at an indie music club. At the time, they already had a couple of fabulous albums out. We didn’t even have a full set of original music! I remember talking to Rick and Monica after the show. They gave us a copy of their latest CD and provided tons of encouragement. I’ve been a big fan ever since.
And they’ve only gotten better. The band on Where are You?, released on January 15, 2021, includes Sorenson on vocals, Walker on guitar, Bruce Paul Allen offering up a wide variety of bass lines, Anthony Sarain playing keys, saxophone and flute, Alberto Moreno on lead guitar, and Dave Fuller keeping the beat on drums. Most of the tracks were recorded at Pacific Beat Studios just before the California stay-at-home order in February 2020. Still, Sorenson explained that it was a challenge to finish “the project in a safe way.”
The album, like the band’s leaders, is thoroughly professional in every way. The songs range from music-box-like interludes to something approaching heavy metal. They rock and swing, their way through a dozen tracks with Sorenson’s vocals soaring. The whole thing sounds like these guys could be doing a world tour were it not for the pandemic. Results like that from a local band is, well, in Sorenson’s words, “rare and remarkable.”
“She Can’t Kiss You” is a hard rocker with a jagged little pill vibe. But there’s a sense of mystery. The lyrics make you think about what’s really going on.
“Knew It All Along” comes out of the box with organ, drums, and a bluesy guitar lead. And then there’s that hook — when Monica delivers the line that serves as the title for the album “Where are you?” with just right amount of vocal doubling just the right amount of whispered echo, you have to keep listening just to hear it again.
“If Only” features Allen’s bass and feels a little like post-punk new wave. Early Pretenders sans Honeyman, with heavier hands on the guitars instead.
“Own Kind of Savior” dashes a hint of country on Sorenson’s vocal with a heavy ballad feel to the music.
“As Good a Day as Any” is the rare break up song where you can actually understand why she’s leaving the guy. Sorenson sings over some nice guitar work and tasty percussion. The lyrics are strong throughout this album, but this one deserves particular praise. “wish I could excuse your behavior, blame it on the drinks and drugs, and your ever troubled mind . . . I want to believe in second chances, but we been down that road and you left me by the side. So, today is just as good a day as any, to say goodbye.” Good as these guys are when they’re rocking, this one is special.
“Walk Among the Dead” and “Counterpart” return to the heavy rock, overdriven guitar style with some interesting organ woven throughout. A pair of interesting call for help for songs. “Wouldn’t have to breath, wouldn’t have to grieve.”
“Quiet” is one of my favorites musically on the album. It starts with some interesting bass and drums. Then a sax wails as piano chords join the party. About a minute in it shifts into a rocker. Just before 2 minutes it pulls back to keys and voice with a little percussion. Then, 30 seconds later a reverb filled guitar lead blasts, and it rocks almost to the end with a party-band sax and then just the vocal “I need some quiet.” A very nicely produced song.
“Arachne’s Pride/Minerva” is a solo acoustic guitar instrumental leading into another guitar rocker. “Sooth me with the sound of night fallen. . . . Let me be small, invisible even.”
“Lost Art” starts with a keyboard-led atmospheric thing that’s soon joined by some acoustic guitar. Sorenson’s delicate vocal here is a joy to listen too. It’s rare to find a band that can rock so hard and also pull off a mellow song like this so successfully.
“Love Me Gently” is a coast-shifting-New-York-state-of jazz-club mind of a song that comes out of nowhere. Could that “matter of trust” lyric by just a coincidence? Billy would be proud. But “my heart can’t take that kind of break again” lyric, though — That’s a cool line, and this is my favorite song on the album.
“Counting My Lucky Stars” combines a great guitar riff with organ that’s just right. Another great vocal too. “I come home to you, you take away every care.” For my money, this is what rock and roll is all about. Sounds more like the beginning than the end to me. I wonder if they considered opening the record with this one. Or maybe they just want to leave the listeners thinking about what’s coming next.
You can get more information and download Sometimes Julie’s music on the band’s website.