Julia and Angus Stone have parted company. Is this a tabloid headline? Is this something that should be read with a shudder and are we thinking of an Oasis-type issue?

Of course not Stone fans, this is simply a chance for the siblings to meander down artistic laneways and give them the ability to write and create for themselves. It may not be the brother and sister act for a wee bit, but we will be given an opportunity to see and hear what they can do solo. Hopefully it will be a win/win for all their fans with double the music and not a loss in quality.

Julia has the release of her CD (By The Horns) off to a galloping start  with an excellent publicity launch at eight intimate venues in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Berlin, Paris, London, Los Angeles , Melbourne and finishing off at The Cell Block Theatre in Sydney. The Old Darlinghurst Gaol, with its sandstone walls and wooden floors, was filled with lights strung along the ceiling and beautiful stars which were a perfect match acoustically and visually for this showcase of songs. It surely didn’t look like this in the 1800’s.

Throw in a mix of record company types, fans, some friends and family and it was a night to enjoy the stars inside and outside the theatre. They even tossed in some record company swag at the end of the night for all of the hoi polloi who came along.

The charming singer (who bears an uncanny facial resemblance to sixties folkie/songwriter Melanie) and her band came out to the aforementioned beautiful setting and instantly the sounds were familiar. Julia does have a distinctive voice and with songs like “Let’s Forget What We Say”, “ It’s All Okay” and “ I’m Here, Not There”  the faithful were swimming in known currents.

The music is sweet and played with a delicate touch by her backing musicians. From beautiful backing vocals to smooth keyboards and delicate arrangements, Julia seemed in control from the beginning. Although it did take her a few songs to actually get her breath and say hello to the assembled, she explained away the delay by talking about the nerves she has been having while performing on her own. She may be experiencing these internally, but externally, except for some bouts of indecisiveness about what song to play next, the set went along without a hitch.

“Justine” was one of the stand-out tracks during the evening where the interplay between the band and Julia was spot on. Julia added some excellent storytelling between songs, including ‘the one about unrequited love’ and the new (unrecorded) song she wrote was bittersweet and hilarious. “Break Apart”  is a gorgeous dreamy slice of mellow pop, and she even tossed in a cool cover of “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac as well as one taken from By The Horns, The National’s “Bloodbuzz, Ohio”. She certainly makes it her own.

This showcase gave a select few the opportunity to experience the music up close and personal. Ms. Stone’s songs are all rather laid back and similar over an evening of music and that can make your attention span drift a bit. But I she is finding a voice for herself, and based on this performance and the strength of her vocals, this Stone may find some different tricks after she let’s go of these horns. Let’s follow her along while she takes this solo ride and see where it takes her.

– Paul Busch