The Ultra Violets

The Ultra Violets

Raising Bobo Records, 1995

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


[Adapted from a review originally appearing in On The Town magazine on August 20, 1996]

So my friend gives me this CD, right? The Ultra Violets. "Huh," I'm thinking, "okay, local band from Davis. I'll give them a shot." And then he says, "You're gonna love this—the woman who sings lead sounds just like Natalie Merchant." And I'm thinking "Cool," because Merchant has one of the most incredible voices I've ever heard (even if she does need to lighten up a little sometimes). Then, being an inveterate liner-notes junkie, I open up the case to check out the band roster. When I see the lead singer's name, I just shake my head. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Natalie Cortez, it says, and "Duh" is what I'm thinking. "He listened to it once while his kids were yelling at him and the phone was ringing and his wife was after him about the laundry on the bedroom floor, and the only thing that stuck in his head was the singer's name. She probably sounds as much like Janis Joplin as Natalie Merchant."

And then I listen, and my jaw does a bungee jump as I realize that local Natalie is to famous Natalie more or less what any one of the junior French impressionists was to Monet—not at all a copycat, an artist in their own right, but an artist with a gift and a adopted style that is at specific moments so eerily similar to their more well-known counterpart that it simply astounds the senses. The milky pure, sultry tones sparingly unleashed, framed by self-composed, gently rocking tunes that lean to deeply personal observation... even some of the brief little mid-song inflections in her voice. These two Natalies share much more than just a name.

On to the music: my personal favorites on this disc are the steady-on, philosophical "Fruitful Harvest," the tumbling piano melody and call-and-answer vocals of "What She Said," and the heartfelt "Silence Of Your Fears." The songs are consistently mid-tempo and thus suffer from a certain sameness about them; what elevates them is the high quality of musicianship and vocal talent the entire band brings. Similarities to you-know-who aside, Cortez and the Violets are talents to watch, based on this initial sampling.

Rating: B

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