Juliana

Woman Wisdom

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A lot of new age albums offer little more than a tranquil ambience -- and for many of the stressed-out Americans who think of new age music as a way to try keeping their blood pressure down while coping with three kids, a mortgage, and a 60-hour work week, that's probably enough. But the more substantial new age releases offer more than just ambience and atmosphere; they offer creative, memorable melodies. Characterized by vocal personality and honest to God songwriting, British singer Juliana's Woman Wisdom is a cut above many of the new age releases that came out in the early 2000s. Enya is obviously a strong influence on this ethereal CD, and even though Woman Wisdom isn't quite in a class with Enya's best albums, Juliana has no doubt spent a lot of time listening to that influential vocalist. A few of the songs on Woman Wisdom are excellent -- especially "Arianna," the title song, and the traditional 19th century Irish gem "Marble Halls" -- and even the tracks that aren't great are at least decent. One of the reasons why Woman Wisdom may reach some people who don't ordinarily buy a lot of new age albums is the fact that Juliana doesn't confine herself to a new age bubble -- this CD is relevant to the new age scene, but it is also relevant to adult contemporary, pop, folk, and Celtic music. "Sacred Lake," in fact, underscores Juliana's interest in Celtic mythology -- an interest she shares with fellow new age artist Llewellyn, who produced and arranged this album and handles most of the songwriting. Since the early '90s, Enya has managed to attract a lot of listeners who have only a casual interest in new age -- and this enjoyable, if imperfect, album indicates that Juliana is also capable of having a broader appeal than the average new age artist.

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