Reviewed by: Jane Roser
Austin based (by way of Florence, Italy) singer-songwriter Giulia Millanta’s fifth album is a lovely blend of seduction, poetry and just enough edginess to appeal to the listener’s inner wild child.
Featuring thirteen songs, all written or co-written by Millanta (the exception being a cool cover of David Bowie’s “R & R Suicide”) Moonbeam Parade was produced by George Reiff (Ray Wylie Hubbard, Tedeschi Trucks Band) and Millanta, and features a host of gifted musicians including Charlie Sexton (Bob Dylan), Howe Gelb (Giant Sand), Glenn Fukunaga (The Dixie Chicks), Michael Fracasso, Kimmie Rhodes, Gabriel Rhodes (Willie Nelson), Dony Wynn (Robert Palmer) and David Pulkingham (Patty Griffin).
Every track was recorded live with the band and required few overdubs, a rarity for most modern studio albums. Millanta also plays electric guitar on several songs, which was a first for her.
Moonbeam Parade‘s melodies and poetic lyrics remind me somewhat of Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen and the song titles seem almost dangerous (“4th and Vodka”, “Play With Fire”, “Gun Shy”). Themes of failure, blame, addictions, pride, misery and new beginnings permeate throughout but never bring you down.
I love how every song is exactly the length it needs to be-fairly short with no long, drawn-out guitar solos or choruses. Millanta expertly delivers these, almost as if they were short stories in an anthology, with grace and a whole lot of heart.
I can almost picture “Shaky Legs” being sung in a smoky Parisian cafe with Audrey Hepburn and Catherine Deneuve sitting in the audience sipping cognac. Millanta’s sultry voice and the catchy chorus give this song a hypnotic, almost aphrodisiac feel and repeat plays are quite necessary.
“There’s A Bridge”, written by Millanta in a motel room in the middle of the night after an earlier visit to the Grand Canyon, is hauntingly beautiful with intense imagery and insightful lyrics: “There’s a bridge, it’s still there, between your life and all the things you never dare try.” It’s hard to listen to this and not imagine what your life might have been like if you had taken certain leaps of faith in the past.
“Silvery Gown” has one of my favorite lyrics on the album: “The night I opened the door, I knew that drowning in pain, and I break through its core, get the needle out of my vein.” Damn. That is pretty hardcore and now I want to watch Requiem For A Dream. It’s a frank, no-frills song that hits you in the gut before setting you free.
I noticed on her website, Millanta listed “Ten music items I love in random order” and Tom Waits’ Raindog was at #1. I had already written “reminds me of Tom Waits” in my notes (I’m totally psychic) plus I love that she noted “his music is full of surprises and never boring”, because the same could be said about Giulia Millanta.