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Natalie D-Napoleon’s Celebratory Return

We review Natalie D-Napoleon

Cover Photo: Brett Leigh Dicks

Natalie D-Napoleon

‘You Wanted To Be The Shore But Instead You Were The Sea’

By Rob Dickens

Pre-COVID, Natalie D-Napoleon had been sharing time between Fremantle, Western Australian and Santa Barbara, California, creating a 25-year successful career as a singer-songwriter and award-winning poet.

You Wanted To Be The Shore But Instead You Were The Sea is long-awaited, following languidly on the heels of her 2012 release Leaving Me Dry. The new album started with songs crafted on the front porch of a one-hundred-year-old Californian cottage.

“I wrote and wrote and wrote,” explained Natalie. “As the songs began to flow, I noticed a theme emerge – I was telling stories of women that hadn’t been told before. Women have long been the muse, the obsession, the bitch, and the whore in so many songs written by men. They have ignored the complexities of how women think and feel. My aim was to tell these untold stories from a woman’s point of view.”

The opener, the urgent and distorted “Thunder Rumor” perfectly captures a woman’s dilemma in trying to put an end to an abusive relationship. There’s the gentle and catchy “How To Break A Spell”, while the compelling “Wildflowers” authentically evokes an old folklore tale. The commanding benefits of an emotional reset are displayed clearly in “Second Time Around” and the track “You Wanted To Be The Shore But Instead You Were the Sea” explores childhood anguish and the consequent damage done. The soothing guitar riff and cello of “Gasoline & Liquor” provide another highlight (see clip below).

A songwriting session in Taos, New Mexico with the very talented Eliza Gilkyson and Mary Gauthier was emotionally exhausting but led to the pointed “Mother of Exiles”, a song inspired by the poem by Emma Lazarus at the foot of the Statue of Liberty celebrating America’s embrace of immigrants.

“Reasons” raises complex questions around the impact of losing an unborn child, while the closer “Broken” leaves us with an uplifting note of triumph.

In order to capture the songs in a fresh and uncompromising manner, the songs were recorded using a single microphone in a one-hundred-year-old wooden chapel nestled in the hills behind Santa Barbara.

The selection of players is impeccable. D-Napoleon, pianist Dan Phillips and bass player Jim Connolly enlisted masterful Doug Pettibone (guitar, mandolin, pedal steel), Jesse Rhodes (multi-instruments), with backing vocals from Connolly, Freya Phillips, Susan Marie Reeves and Hazel Chevitarese. The album was produced by Connolly and D-Napoleon.

It has been too long an interval but Natalie D-Napoleon’s latest (OUT NOW) makes up for lost time – a skillful gathering of songs to enrich our souls in this year of disruption and worry.

You Wanted To Be The Shore But Instead You Were The Sea

Track List

  1. Thunder Rumor
  2. How to Break a Spell
  3. Wildflowers
  4. Second Time Around
  5. Soft
  6. No Longer Mine
  7. You Wanted to be the Shore But Instead You Were the Sea
  8. Gasoline & Liquor
  9. Mother Of Exiles
  10. Reasons
  11. Cut Your Hair
  12. Broken

In the 1990’s Natalie D-Napoleon fronted Perth indie-rock band Bloom and alt. country outfit Flavour of the Month. In 2005 she branched out as a solo artist, releasing her debut solo After the Flood and then relocated to California forming a trio with the late Kenny Edwards and Phillips, recording an EP of covers Here in California and 2012’s Leaving Me Dry.

In 2018 Natalie was awarded the Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize for her poem First Blood: A Sestina, followed by her book First Blood (Gininnderra Press). Her poetry has subsequently been published in Australian Poetry Journal, Griffith Review, Meanjin and The Australian.

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We review Natalie D-Napoleon

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Author: Rob Dickens

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