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  Season of the Hurricane
Artist: Juliet Turner
Label: Sony Music

In a world where her musical peers Norah Jones and Katie Melua are top of the charts, Juliet Turner perhaps misses out because she is better. Her lyrics are not simply part of a pleasant sound. She is an English graduate who studied too well to lower her rhymes to "who cares if it's poetry so long as it sounds nice" irrelevance. One can tell that with Turner every line is crafted, critiqued, and redrafted until it is art, yet she never gives a sense of art for art's sake. This all seems lived, and every hurt, insecurity, new experience and irritant circumstance seem to give her northern Irish vocal a passion and earthiness that exudes honesty, vulnerability and shared humanity.

Play Juliet Turner in the background at your peril. As you enjoy that glass of wine with your new hot date she will spit at you from the speakers with sometimes spiritual conundrums, often times the hurts and injustice of every day living and loving and far too many times sexual politics and their joy and pain. As Jones whispers at you in every shop, café and friend's living room you never stop and ask about "popes, presidents, and suicidal malcontents." But Turner always provokes you to question. Indeed that song "Signal and the Noise" might be the best way to describe the difference. Turner is adamant that she will not add to the bland, dull every day noise that circles us and erodes our souls. She is in search of a signal. Something above all, under all, through all that will make sense of this existence and ask big questions instead of merely settling for tiny answers.

"Vampire" is a song written in the hurricane of sexual and romantic desire. It is physical, graphic and almost torturous and brutal, yet the chorus, "where do you go when I sleep," is utterly gorgeous and winsome! That same winsomeness seduces your ears in similar seemingly simple but repetitive refrains throughout the album. 1987 comes on all pop guitar and strut as the young Omagh girl has her first French kiss and sees endings being important in moving on.

Turner has a very healthy and balanced view of her background. Much is played on her Methodist roots in the Irish press, and being a "what you see is what you get" kind of girl, her journey through Irish politics and her church background on how she has become who she is has never been hidden. Her strength has been to protest all that is narrow and claustrophobic in her townland yet while doing so being proud of its strengths. There is still a deep respect for belief in these songs, even if she does not seem so sure that she believes in what she herself learned in Sunday School. There are devout souls and benedictions and people with belief even if it in Elvis. To be a rock star in Omagh Methodism or a Methodist in the Dublin rock community are two difficult juxtapositions. Turner ditches each and finds herself spiritually and geographically living in a town somewhere between the two.

"One Night" might be the biggest give-away to her church background--not in its mention of Jesus but for the fact that few normal 30-year-olds would be so surprised, excited or satisfied with one night stands; most got over its thrill in mid teens and have now got bored with the emptiness and moved on. On the other hand, that background has never allowed her to lose herself in rock subculture, diluting her to a fashion conscious chaser of cool, hedonistic predictability. Her songs have more of a human face and heart and soul as a result. She lives in the real world, and these are the same issues and emotions that we who buy her albums are dealing with.

Musically Alastair McMillan's production is a lot less cluttered, which gives Juliet's voice a chance to come forward and do what she does best--deliver great lines with melody that catch you then pummel you until you cannot get them out of your head. Guitarist Brian Grace has become a crucial part of the Turner sound in these last couple of years, and here he gets a few co-writes as well as the chance for his guitar whether acoustic or electric make its mark. What he and McMillan have done is to give this album an eclectic breadth but never lose its sense of unity.

The title track is in some ways the song that leads you out of "Burn the Black Suit" and towards here, where she is now. It is that song that you cannot help thinking that Mary Black should cover if she wants to gain edge that is a little more youthful. It is set as many of these songs are in America. We are looking for tranquility and even religious retreat, yet we are too aware of environmental issues and the power of the dollar. "No Good In This Goodbye" is a stunning ballad in the same vain as Belfast Central and again only Turner could make a song with birds dead on windscreens and broken necks so utterly beautiful.

Weaknesses? "Elvis Is In the Building" has not convinced me and there are maybe too many clichés in the titles ("Business As Usual," "Elvis Is In the Building," "The Greatest Show On Earth") which belies the originality beneath. Overall, though, this is a young woman using a voice that Ireland has come to love to tell us that she is finding her voice in life and art, and there is so much on here that makes you long to hear what comes next. Like U2, Turner's church background will mean that she can never get away from cosmic questions and deep, deep content. That element will always keep her a cut above the rest. Whether it makes her richer or more famous is another thing but then another of the things that makes her who she is, is that she is not chasing any of those things.

Steve Stockman  March 17, 2004

Steve Stockman is the Presbyterian Chaplain at Queens University, Belfast, Ireland, where he lives in community with 88 students. He has just finished a book on U2, Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2, is the poetic half of Stevenson and Samuel who have just released their debut album Gracenotes, and he has a weekly radio show on BBC Radio Ulster (listen anytime of day or night @ He has his own web page--Rhythms of Redemption at He also tries to spend some time with his wife Janice and daughters Caitlin and Jasmine.

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