Reviews and press clips from the 2018 release Dream Girl on BFD/Sony RED/ The Orchard:
The Patriot Ledger December 29, 2018
Entertainment & Life
Music: Juliet Simmons Dinallo finds her voice
By Jay Miller
Juliet Simmons DiNallo said she always enjoyed singing, but it took her years to find her voice as a songwriter. Now DiNallo, perhaps best known in the Boston area recently as leader of the rockabilly band Juliet and the Lonesome Romeos, has made a couple of moves – musically and geographically – that both bring her closer to Southern music; classic Nashville country spiced up with some Memphis soul.
DiNallo will be celebrating the release of her new album, “Dream Girl,” at Club Passim in a special New Year’s day show that begins at 6 p.m.
DiNallo went to Berklee College of Music, intending to be a singer but a little vague about what style she wanted to pursue. A typical rock ‘n’ roll fan growing up, she had been born in North Carolina, while her father was completing his doctoral thesis at Duke, but had been raised in Maine and then Massachusetts. Berklee soon broadened her musical horizons.
“I wanted to sing, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with that ambition,” said DiNallo, from her North Shore home. “I loved rock, like Tom Petty, Bonnie Raitt, and some country music like Lyle Lovett at the time. I was not really pointed in any one direction, and it took a while for me to have enough confidence in myself.”
“When auditions were announced for the gospel choir, everyone in Voice Studies went for it, so I did too,” DiNallo explained. “There were about 300 people trying out for ten spots, and somewhat to my surprise, I made it. It became a very cool experience, learning a lot of cool songs and performing a lot of shows. There were always some a capella songs, and we performed at a lot of churches in the area. As part of that experience, I realized I had kind of a knack for singing country music. So my tastes evolved, and now I also listen to a lot of jazz and classical music too.”
But even as DiNallo was discovering new musical forms she could embrace, her life was putting music on a back burner after college.
“I was married to a drummer for seven years, right after Berklee, and musically I was kind of floundering,” said DiNallo. “I didn’t really do much music for about a decade, while working at various day jobs. After the marriage fell apart, I started writing songs, a lot of emotional stuff. When I started I did mostly co-writes, writing with other songwriters. I’m still evolving and growing as a writer, and I love all styles of music, from rock to old style country like The Carter Family, and even old folk songs from England and Ireland. A good majority of my early songs were about things that had actually happened to me, and the songwriting was really terrific therapy.”
A catalyst for her last-blooming songwriting was meeting guitarist Michael DiNallo, who had been part of the outstanding rhythm and blues band The Radio Kings in the late 1980s/early′90s, and had gone on to a solo career of various projects, as well as working for a Scandinavian label as their representative in the United States. Michael DiNallo also attended Berklee, and logic would tell you the two must have met there, but it wasn’t the case. But Michael quickly became Juliet’s collaborator in life as well as music, and the two eventually married.
“I had settled on the North Shore, and one of my outside jobs was working at the Rio Grande Cafe, where I know The Radio Kings played,” said Juliet. “But for the life of me I don’t recall Michael as one of the Radio Kings. Years later we met, and sparks flew. We’ve found that we went to the same places for music, both attended Berklee, and most unusual, my ex-husband was best friends with the guy who was Michael’s roommate at Berklee. Yet we never knew each other.”
Michael DiNallo has always had an affinity for roots music, like early rock ‘n’ roll, so it was perhaps no surprise that Juliet was soon singing in front of a rockabilly band with her husband on guitar. Juliet and the Lonesome Romeos forged a sizable following in the Boston area, and beyond, but she was eager to explore other sounds too. The new album was co-produced by Michael DiNallo and Boston studio wizard Ducky Carlisle, at Ice Station Zebra in Medford.
The new album is a frankly dazzling showcase for DiNallo’s rather unique take on country music, not least because her vision of it includes some of that Memphis r&b that is stylistically, as well as geographically, just up the road from Nashville. The title cut, imagined as a lullaby for the couple’s young daughter, is an easy-rolling ballad that will remind music fans of Roy Orbison, and perhaps his time with the Traveling Wilburys. “Moonshine and Sweet Tea,” on the other hand, is a deliciously twangy ballad replete with Southern imagery, but both those opening tunes evoke classic country roots.
“We absolutely went for a Roy Orbison style on ‘Dream Girl,’ ” said DiNallo. “I heard some Traveling Wilburys in that, and also Everly Brothers echoes as I was writing it. Michael had a little CD of song ideas, and I heard a little lick on it that triggered the melody, as I sang it to my daughter. She was one-and-a-half at the time and, from beginning as a song about hopes and dreams, it became more about her.”
Large parts of the new album have lyrics about dealing with transitions, as the DiNallos have, establishing a base of operations in Nashville this year, even as Juliet’s day jobs require them to keep some dogs in Boston too. “Moonshine and Sweet Tea” grew out of a trip to Nashville several years ago.
“I hadn’t gone to Nashville until 2012 or so, and people had always told me how beautiful it was,” said DiNallo. “We went in the winter, and I didn’t see it that way. But the next spring we went through North Carolina and into Tennessee again, and found the area was truly amazing. Another song, “Tennessee” came from us driving along, and it’s definitely got that kind of a groove to it. I think this whole record has roots in Nashville and Memphis, and those grooves are a result of collective work with Michael, Ducky, and our great rhythm section.”
The song most closely tied to that transition theme is “The Abyss,” a subtly rocking march, with a horn section providing some soul music muscle, as DiNallo sings about chasing hopes and dreams.
“I actually wrote ‘The Abyss’ before my first record was even picked up,” DiNallo admitted. “I was still scared to perform in public at the time, and so that was all about letting go of my fear of failure. It’s a very specific song, although I tried to be poetic, because I was really scared about going out on the road with someone like Michael, who had been on the road and touring for years. It is definitely a song about taking that big leap.”
And indicative of the range of the new album, “Don’t Get Much” harkens back to those first country records DiNallo heard, as it is a jaunty mountain music two-step romp, fired by fiddle.
“That song “Don’t Get Much’ and ‘Moonshine and Sweet Tea’ are real hard core twang,” DiNallo laughed. “But Tim Carter, a descendant of The Carter Family, has a studio in Nashville where we recorded those parts. On ‘Don’t Get Much’ Tim is playing mandolin, and his friend Chuck Cobb plays that wonderful fiddle. You don’t normally find those kind of instruments around Boston.”
Away from music, Juliet DiNallo teaches fitness classes, and also sell ancillary products to auto dealerships, and those business interest require the couple to maintain dual homes, for the moment.
“We’re both going back and forth for now, and I’ve got too much going on to leave Boston entirely,” said DiNallo. “But the other work has allowed me to do what I want to do musically, so you come to appreciate the balance.”
DECEMBER 28, 2018
Folk & World
JULIET SIMMONS DINALLO An opportunity to celebrate both the new year and new music with this Boston-to-Nashville transplant: Juliet Simmons Dinallo marks the release of her soulful Americana collection, “Dream Girl,” along with some of the folks who helped her make it including husband Michael Dinallo and harmonizing pals Amber Casares and Anita Suhanin. Jan. 1, 6 p.m. $15. Club Passim, Cambridge. 617-492-7679, www.passim.org
DREAM GIRL Juliet Simmons Dinallo (BFD/ Orchard) **** ++
"If you’re into Alison Krauss and/ or Emmylou Harris, you might want to add the new album from Juliet Simmons Dinallo to your music collection. Dream Girl is a combination of Nashville and Memphis, with vocal harmonies that positively shine. This isn’t ‘just another country record’, it’s a work of art.
Originally from Boston but now based in Nashville, Dinallo has delivered a set of songs about transition, change, and growing older. Produced by her husband Michael and Ducky Carlisle, Dream Girl has a cleared eyed sound and directness that harkens back to some of the old school country that I still enjoy. There’s a similar feel to these songs as the Trio album done by Dolly, Emmylou & Linda Ronstadt, a combination of sweet vocals and a salt-of-the-earth way about it that feels really good, really right. Weirdly, my mind can also hear Roy Orbison singing these songs too, it’s the emotional kind of stuff he used to do so well.
Dream Girl opens with the title track, written by Juliet and Michael for their daughter, and closes with another version of the song that includes their girl on vocals- a rather charming way to end the record. In between are songs like Moonshine & Sweet Tea, an old-timey waltz, and The Abyss, a song about facing your fears and staring them down. Fly (Prayer For Sandy Hook) addresses that tragedy that we know all too well.
Combining country aesthetics with Memphis soul grooves may not seem an obvious choice to make, but it works gangbusters here. Dream Girl and Juliet’s sweet voice are comfort food for the soul… listening to this is like getting into a really deep conversation with an insightful friend- something we could all use a little more of."
KEY CUTS: Moonshine & Sweet Tea, Dream Girl, The Abyss
-John Kereiff, The Rock Doctor, Canada
"Tasty Americana folk heavily on the back porch, organic side that delivers the goods nicely. A pleasant, easily relatable set that goes down easy and leaves no after taste. Simply one of those fast balls down the middle that knows where the sweet spot is."
-Chris Spector, Midwest Record, Chicago IL
"Current Nashville resident Juliet Simmons Dinallo has released her second album titled Dream Girl. A ten song cycle about unsettled matters of the heart and soul. The songs all written or co-written by Simmons Dinallo blends the soulful sounds of Beale Street Memphis and the country strains of Nashville's Broadway seamlessly throughout the album. Assisting on the album are Michael Dinallo (guitars, producer, co writer and husband), Dean Cassell (bass), Steve Chaggaris (drums), Tom West (piano/organ), Ducky Carlisle (percussion/harmony vocals), Tim Carter (mandolin/banjo), Shad Cobb (fiddle) and Paul Ahlstrand and Scott Aruda on tenor sax and trumpet respectively. Amber Casares and Anita Suhanin add gorgeous harmony vocals. Highlights include the title cut "Dream Girl", "Moonshine and Sweet Tea", "Someone for You", the country roots sound of "Don't Got Much", "Fly (A Prayer for Sandy Hook)", "Tennessee" a marriage of country and soul, and "Until I Go". Check out www.julietsimmonsdinallo.com for more information about Juliet Simmons Dinallo and her latest album Dream Girl"
-Bob Silvestri, Best of WNY.com
“Juliet Simmons Dinallo is perhaps best-known as a belter, but she turns more dreamily reflective on this new album, which includes a stunning mother's lament, "Fly (A Prayer for Sandy Hook)."
-Steve Morse, former longtime Boston Globe staff critic who now teaches a course in music history for Berklee College of Music
Press clips and reviews from 2013 release No Regrets on Tree-O-Records:
“Being compared by critics to Lucinda Williams and making the CMA CloseUp Magazine’s “Who New To Watch in 2013” list have got to be hard to live up to, but Juliet and the Lonesome Romeos do just that with their debut album, No Regrets. The final track here is her finest moment – the waltz “Learn to Love Again” – where she must dip into someplace deep for such longing in her performance. Not since Deana Carter’s “Strawberry Wine” has 3⁄4-time deserved a spot back on contemporary radio playlists.”
— Janet Goodman, Music News Nashville
“Before the financial crash a few years ago, there was a wealth of indie cowpunk and insurgent country records that were just mind blowing and coming out on a regular basis. Then it dried up. This set heralds the return of left of center country. Taking the weight of the world off Elizabeth Cook’s shoulders, Juliet Simmons Dinallo fuses the various sincerities of Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams into her own special stew loaded with the flavor your ears have been missing. Hot stuff.”
— Chris Spector, Midwest Record, Chicago
“On the most affecting tune here, “Faded Highway,” concerning a soul completely adrift in a world full of people similarly disenfranchised, she brings it all together: the writing, replete with striking metaphors and incisive personal confessions in honky tonk weeper fueled by lap steel, betrays a Rosanne Cash-like gift for unadorned, poetic confessions, which are further enhanced by a nuanced vocal that rises from a measured ache to a bruised shout. … At the end she leaves the listener not adrift, as she is on “Faded Highway,” but with something positive: in the hopeful verses of “Learn to Love Again,” a hymn to healing a broken heart, the lyrics’ earnest sentiments are burnished by the hum of Jeff Allison’s church-like B3, an electric guitar’s spare, robust punctuations and Ms. Dinallo’s own soft voice soaring assuredly at the end as she announces, “I want to sail away on a ship of fools/to a place far away/where I can start something new/regain my smile, rest my weary soul for awhile/I want to sail away on a ship of fools/to a desolate isle/where I can hide for awhile/where my heart can mend/ and I can learn to love…again/where I can learn…to love…again.” She repeats “I can learn to love again” a third time, the song quietly fades, and you believe her.”
— David McGee, Deep Roots
“Its combination of grit and equanimity makes Juliet and the Lonesome Romeos’ No Regrets an assured full-length debut — the record skirts Americana, but it’s more formally acute than the genre’s usual country-rock pastiches. North Carolina native Juliet Simmons Dinallo sings in a soulful alt-country voice on such originals as “Narcissus,” and her songs — most written with guitarist Michael A. Gray — breathe life into time-honored tropes of individualism and constraint. The Boston band benefits from the production of Ducky Carlisle and Michael Dinallo, who add chiming guitars and accordion to the mix. At its best, No Regrets suggests the influence of Southernstyle power pop — with its nervous, Beatles-esque chord changes, “Last Kiss” could almost be an outtake from The dB’s Like This. Juliet’s songs are as tough as her vocals: “Goodbye to you / I deflect all those daggers that you self-project,” she sings on the title track, and you believe her."
— Edd Hurt, Nashville Scene
“Juliet Simmons Dinallo and her Lonesome Romeos have been a steady presence on the area roots and country scene for a
while now, but apart from a couple of compilation tracks, you’ve had to see her live to hear her songs and her soulful, rasp-edged singing. Her full-length debut is about to change that. It’s a capacious affair, incorporating elements of country, rock ’n’ roll, folk, and pop into a rootsy base, and adding a Katrina lament (“September Day”) and a heartfelt song about a loved one’s descent into mental illness (“Unkindest Cut”) to the usual shades of love in full sway or gone south. The album kicks off with the roots-pop of the title track, finds time on “Wishing Well” for a bit of Neil Young crunch before bending to bring in a delicious, poppy “ooh ooh” chorus, adds some meat-and-potatoes rock ’n’ roll with the snarling “Narcissus” (“he’ll never love you like he loves himself”) and culminates in the intense shimmer of “Learn to Love Again.” But the album’s most affecting moment might be its simplest: On the gorgeous “Winter Night,” accompanied only by guitar, Simmons Dinallo’s voice rings, as crisp and clear as the winter night she’s singing about."
— Stuart Munro, The Boston Globe
“Juliet Simmons Dinallo couldn’t sound any different on this debut album than she does, a silky-voiced, pop rocker with just a bit of twang.”
— Chris Jorgensen, Billings Gazette
Press clips forJuliet Simmons Dinallo’s performance of “Whirlwind” on Feel Like Going Home: The Songs of Charlie Rich released on Memphis International Records in 2016:
“....sizzling rocker by Juliet Simmons Dinallo, romping through ‘Whirlwind’ with a lively, echoed vocal uncannily reminiscent of the young Rosanne Cash complemented by a wildly romping guitar...."
— David McGee, Deep Roots Magazine
“Juliet Simmons Dinallo’s ‘Whirlwind’ is driven by an incredible beat that has the undiluted joy of original rockabilly written all over it.”
— Maurice Hope, Flying Shoes Review
“Some feisty women also receive a few well-deserved spotlights. Juliet Simmons Dinallo storms through "Whirlwind.’”
— Dan MacIntosh, Country Standard Time
“Highlights included Juliet Simmons Dinallo’s hot rockabilly ‘Whirlwind.’”
— Hyperbolium (A Critical Element), November 2016
“....Juliet’s buoyant rockabilly take on “Whirlwind” …”
— Jay Miller, The Patriot Ledger