Though still unknown in much of the U.S., Birmingham, England native Julie Dexter has for the past five years been considered by some as one of the brightest young talents in the Soul Music scene. Now based in Atlanta, Dexter earned her stripes in the late 90s as a featured vocalist working with British jazz great Courtney Pine. She toured the world with Pine and gained the experience and confidence to release her own EP, Peace of Mind in 2000, and followed it with Dexterity in 2002, both on her own Ketch A Vibe Records. Both discs were underground soul hits, selling a combined 40,000 units (impressive for independently released discs by a newcomer) and gaining for her a loyal following in both the UK and the Eastern US.
While unfortunately labeled by many as a "Neo Soul" singer (and inappropriately compared by some to Jill Scott because of the intelligent, poetic feel of her lyrics), Dexter's music crosses several musical borders. Combining elements of jazz, soul, electronica and a strong island influence, Dexter has created her own distinct, attractive sound and has shown herself to be a extremely talented songwriter.
Thus, it was with great anticipation that Dexter released her third disc, Conscious, in early 2005. Writing and performing on the disc with musician/producer Michael Johnson, Dexter created her strongest album yet, and one that rightfully received great buzz throughout both soul and jazz circles. Her strong reggae influences mixed well with Johnson's soul leanings, resulting in a series of fascinating rhythms throughout the disc, especially on the title cut, "Rhythm Daughter" and "Look Who's Got Ya Back." And her slight, tonally pretty voice (occasionally reminiscent of Diana Ross) worked very well with the ambitious arrangements, becoming another instrument in the wall of sound she and Johnson created. Best of all, the material was uniformly strong and extremely interesting lyrically, covering issues of love, faith and race, in an intelligent, poetic manner.
While she continued to perform concerts regularly after the release of Conscious, she was conspicuously silent on record. She broke the silence with Moon Bossa, a recording with Jiva's Khari Simmons that was uniformly praised. But her next solo release wouldn't come until 2011, when she quietly released the ep Interim while her fans waited for a full new CD. It again received great critical praise.
By Chris Rizik
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