At last year's LDS Pearl Awards, Julie de Azevedo cleaned house. Her album "Pray for Rain" won five awards and netted her Songwriter of the Year honors.
Chances are she'll be doing a good deal of housekeeping at this year's Pearls as well. "Dive Deep," an ambitious CD, once again multiplies and displays her talents.And tonight at 8 p.m. at Kingsbury Hall, de Azevedo will be showcasing the collection for local fans in a special concert. Tickets are $14.50 and $10.50 and can be purchased at ArtTix.
As for the material on "Dive Deep," it ain't elevator music. The vocal stylings and melody lines call to mind Joni Mitchell of "Court and Spark." And de Azevedo's words "dive deep" for meanings while the musical arrangements flirt with fusion jazz.
In short, de Azevedo pushes herself here and hopes to pull her corps of devoted listeners along with her.
"These really aren't sing-along songs," she says of the CD. "It's definitely a singer-songwriter album. The songs really weren't intended for other people to perform, though that has happened."
The daughter of celebrated LDS composer Lex de Azevedo, daughter Julie has worked hard to establish an identity all her own. "Dive Deep" should go a long way to making that happen. Over the years she has performed on television, on radio and given many concerts. "Pray for Rain," her last CD, was a breakthrough. "Dive Deep" charts more new territory. Dan Truman, a songwriter for the ground Diamond Rio, is calling it "the best stuff to ever come out of Utah." Other music professionals have also chimed in with praise.
With so much inventive music coming out of the Christian community today, using the term "cutting edge" to describe "Dive Deep" might be over-reaching. But it is a very progressive piece of songwriting. The title cut is a personal manifesto of sorts, where the singer exhorts the love of her life to dive deep, to "Swim with the lover, dance with the mother, kiss the wife and laugh with the girl." "Wings" is wonderful "tone poem" -- both musically and in the lyrics -- and "Living in Oz" is the singer's take on an American classic.
"What happened in that song is I'd written a line for another song about `tripping over your own shoes.' The Dorothy idea kind of grew from there," she says. "I'm not sure the intent of the movie is spiritual, but there are some universal themes in it that connect with people. And because of who I am I see those themes as spiritual. All the characters thought they were lacking something, but they already had everything they needed."
For her concert, de Azevedo plans to test a lot of the new material on her fans. But she will also be playing some of the songs that have gotten her where she is -- on the top rung of LDS pop music.
Would she like to expand beyond that, perhaps? Corner a share of the larger Christian market?
"If that happens, that would be great," she says. But that's not necessarily a goal.
The interesting thing for the singer's local fan base will be to see if her new, almost avant garde approach, to LDS pop music will work in this market.
"I'm really not trying to preach anything," she says. "So I don't worry whether or not the music might be too `edgy' for the message, because it's about my life. I wanted to do the kind of music that I like to listen to."