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Stone CupidStone Cupid
Album: The Cardinal
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 12

Once part of post-punk outfit The Divine Horsemen and backing singer on Leonard Cohen's 1988 and 1993 world tours (as well as on the "I'm Your Man" and "The Future" albums), Austin's Julie Christensen now fronts her own band, one which features former Midnight Oil bassist Bones Hillman, of which this is the debut release after five solo albums. I have to say, it's a slightly mixed collection. Her time served in The Divine Horsemen demonstrated that she has a powerful set of lungs, something she makes clear on the gutsier numbers here, evidence from the get go with the title track, a slowly unfurling folk-based number that vibrates with powerful resonating guitar notes and a southern scorch to her impassioned vocals. It's a striking opener, but, while that class also shines through self-penned powerhouse closer "Live And Not Die Trying" and a cover of Chuck Prophet's "Would You Love Me", too often that side of things tends to feel all a bit generic Southern barroom blues rock, as with "Shed My Skin", "Riverside", the riffing "Saint On A Chain", and "Gasoline", a song you can almost hear from the title alone.

There's nothing intrinsically bad about any of these, they're just the sort of thing countless bands churn out every night on a regular basis. They're far more distinctive on the ballads, notably the soulful country groove of "Broken Wing", Amelia White's aching "Girl In The Sky", a hymnal "100 Floors" and, while it's more cranked up to epic levels, the rafters-lifting "No Mercy", co-penned by John Hadley and David Olney.

Nevertheless, even they're cruising in a comfort zone, there's no denying Christensen's voice stirs the blood, something Mr Cohen would unreservedly endorse. Which leads to mention of the album's hidden bonus track, a terrific version of "Anthem", for the most part accompanied by just brushed drums and a simple resonant guitar, a song she originally sang on "The Future" album and duetted with fellow backing singer Perla Batalla at 2003's "Came So Far for Beauty: An Evening of Leonard Cohen Songs" as part of the Brooklyn Performing Arts Festival. She does him proud.

Mike Davies