You may know of Julia Blair from her singing in the Appleton, Wisconsin country-rock group Dusk, who released their self-titled debut album in 2018. You might also know of her as co-conspirator in the experimental folk-collective Holy Sheboygan! or even as co-founder of the Crutch of Memory Enterprises label and recording studio. On February 24th, Julia’s releasing her first official full length solo album- entitled Better Out Than In.
The lead single “Relax” is a super fun 90’s-esque pop song with an anti-folk flare. Featuring synth melodies, swoony country-rock guitar riffs, Sheryl Crow-esque vocals, and hyper-relatable lyrics, “Relax” is a feminist anthem standing up to the frustrating sexism Julia has faced both in the music industry and in her personal life.
On the track, Julia shares: “I started writing this song in the car when I was pissed off for being blown off by a young man our band was collaborating with who would not talk to me about the project and kept insisting on funneling all communication through one of the men in our band. Also, right around the same time, I had a weird experience with an older man who tried to start a romantic relationship with me in the most roundabout, unspoken about way.”
On the concept behind the album, Blair shares: “Better Out Than In was produced over the course of three years at our in-house studios at the Crutch Of Memory compound in Appleton, Wisconsin – in the heart of the “Fox River Valley”. Crutch of Memory was established several years ago, mostly as a private studio for the creative output of members of Dusk and Tenement. Since then, it’s taken on its own identity as a record label and destination recording studio. This album is the second release on our flagship series. Our goal is to establish a catalog of artists and material that we’re heavily involved and invested in creatively; through songwriting, arranging, performing, and recording. We bring our favorite artists to our neck of the woods and let them swim in our pond, so to speak. Our hope is to bring out what we love most in these artists, and in the process, insert what makes us unique as musicians, songwriters, and producers as well. What we hold important is that we make great records and capture our own individual acoustic: what one could call The Fox River Valley Sound.”
Included in Better Out Than In’s writing and production team is Julia Blair (player, producer, songwriter), Amos Pitsch (Tenement, Dusk)(producer, player, songwriter), Andy Harris (Jaill, The Goodnight Loving)(player), Colin Wilde (Dusk, Black Thumb) (player, songwriter), Ridley Tankersley (Dusk) (player), among many others. Justin Perkins, who recently mastered the extensive Replacements reissues, played in the groups Yesterday’s Kids, The Obsoletes, and Bash ‘N Pop, among others, and has made a name for himself under his company Mystery Room Mastering, mastered the album for vinyl and digital formats.
The album leans heavily on pop structure on some of its centerpieces such as “Relax”, “Just A Cue”, and “Fantasize”; the flow split up by three sequentially evolving lullabies, much like a series of intermissions. Folk and classical traditions still make their way into the fold however; particularly on the aforementioned lullabies, almost-impressionist ballad “Barbara”, and the string-heavy finale, “Waste Away”. It was recorded and mixed over the course of three years at Crutch of Memory Studios by Amos Pitsch with direction from Julia herself, and features performances from many of our frequent collaborators and session stand-ins: Ridley Tankersley (Dusk, darn it.), Andy Harris (HPA, Phylums, The Goodnight Loving), Amos Pitsch (Tenement, Dusk), and Colin Wilde (Black Thumb, Dusk), among many others.
The virtue in this set of songs lies in its ability to equip the disadvantaged with fuel to keep pushing. To uplift the disheartened. To anchor unsteady feet in an increasingly turbulent world. Julia Blair’s voice is the equalizer within and Crutch of Memory is proud to bring it to you as the second edition of our flagship series. We hope you surrender yourself to the truth within this album and that you too find that the power of expression is left Better Out Than In.