I must begin with a confession. It took ages to rid my mind of the “Who’s on first” routine – childish I know – but I must also make it clear that Julie Adams and Michael Costello are not a comedy duo. They are a rock duo from Oregon; Julie originally from the west coast and Michael from New England met in Boston at a Lucinda Williams gig as described in the opening track, ‘Trouble’. One By One is their third album, blending Michael’s blues-rock background with Julie’s singer-songwriter credentials.
Both Julie and Michael play guitars including Michael’s slide and the band is completed by bass, drums and keyboards by Bret Levick and Arty Watson with guest appearances by Wes Mahrmund and Mike McCaffrey. They lie at the rockier end of country-blues-rock and the fascinating thing is that, when sharing lead vocals, Michael tends to take the softer more “acoustic” tracks, relatively speaking, like the second cut, the lyrically simple ‘Blame It On The Rain’, the gently rocking ‘Crueler Than Blue’ or the bluesy stomp of ‘Beans & Rice’. Julie is noted for her energetic stage presence which she demonstrates on songs like ‘Telephone’ and ‘Wash These Sins’ allowing Michael to concentrate on his guitar work.
Lyrically, the songs are split between blues tropes – Michael’s influence, I suspect – and more involved stories, which reflect Julie’s background. I say stories because, like ‘Trouble’, they drop you into a scenario and leave you to navigate your way through. Many of them, ‘Save Me From Myself’ being the prime example, find the singer lost and lonely and in need of someone’s help. ‘One By One’ is the lyrical heavyweight, turning its attention to all that’s wrong with society – “Users, abusers, two timers and some losers” and “Back stabbers, copy catters” – and in this song they are all going down. Finally, in a neat turnaround, Michael echoes the first track as he sings “Julie you’re the only one” in a voice that tugs at my memory.
Artists’ website: https://www.adamsandcostello.com/
‘Touble’ – official video: