Julie Ann Bertram
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Julie Ann Bertram

Band Folk Singer/Songwriter

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May
07
Julie Ann Bertram @ The Cameron House

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Woe is Me is the kind of album that quietly changes you from what you thought you were into what you have always been. The stunning poetry extracts hope and joy from the darkest hours of human existence, making experiences like grief, fear and love shimmer with forgotten possibilities.

Julie Ann Bertram’s distinctive voice has an uncanny ability to get into the crevices of your consciousness and pry you open. Her dynamic pipes range from low and gravelly to a passionate intensity that is difficult to compare- think of Tom Waits and Jane Siberry with a touch of Bjork. It’s tempting to see something of both Nina Simone and Johnny Cash in the work of this unusual, accomplished storyteller. Her voice takes you on a jazzy meander through the underbelly, then turns mercurial, demonstrating her own anguishes.

The song Time is my favourite, a declaration of strength and power within helplessness. Julie takes us back to the importance of carefully crafting a song. Here, the body is truly a temple and she sings “the beating of my aching heart/speeding up the blood/rushing through my temples where I worship what I love…I’ve searched for the answers/they’re in your eyes…you can do whatever cause I’m not afraid to die.”

The album spans the whole of Bertram’s life up until now, and it’s clear where she loses any vestiges of self-consciousness. On A Love Song, anything that was held back floods through, revealing the soul full force – “you tried, I quit/you gave, I took/you searched and I just looked…” Bertram writes, reaching the apex of loss on the album: “you lied, I believed/you died, so I grieved…in a love song.” The velocity continues through Dreams, which showcases her voice and unusual instrumentation. Here she sings “Imagination creates the future we are living in…only in my dreams.”

Such personal revelations take the risk of self-absorption, but Bertram’s work doesn’t get stuck in her own story. Her narratives echo with ancient mythologies and universal archetypes, ferociously summoning power from the listener’s psyche. The whole album feels like a tonglen- the difficult Buddhist practice of carrying pain to produce compassion. Woe is me, with intricate accompaniment of guitar, sounds like folk-rock, yet conjures fully the blues. Named for a verse from Job in the Bible, Julie’s lamentations for the earth and its inhabitants resonates with the pulse of imagination, our planet’s only salvation.


Job 10:15: If I be wicked, woe unto me; and if I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head.
I am full of confusion; therefore see thou mine affliction.
- T.G.C.W.


Discography

New Release: Live@LittleMontreal - due Autumn 2009
Woe Is Me - 2007 : with airplay on College Radio
and the CBC
Ecstatic Songs - 2004
J.A.B. - 1999

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Bio

Julie Ann Bertram went from thumbing along the highway to thumbing along the fretboard... After finishing studies in theatre, she hitchhiked along the West Coast, into the U.S., Mexico and back again. It is during this time she honed an artistry; melding her crafts of writing, music and performance into busking on street corners for money to continue the journey... "I came to understand much about the human psyche and my place in this world".

A couple of years later, the fruits of this edification were apparent in a newfound song writing career: winning first places from the Royal Conservatory of Music for guitar composition and the Sylvia Tyson Song writing Scholarship(CMPA). She released EP 'JAB' and was top finalist in the John Lennon Song writing Competition.

At 30 she sold her belongings and travelled to Denmark, expecting to drift through Europe as a troubadour - not the trip she envisioned... and moved back home to Canada where she found a kindred spirit in Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, a 13th century Mystic Poet. Julie dove into translations of his work by Coleman Barks, and with Barks' blessing, added music and melody to ten favourite poems - the album 'Ecstatic Songs'.

Not long after, she won the title of "Best Acoustic Female Artist" at the Toronto Independent Music Awards and recorded 'Woe Is Me'. In the process of production, Julie gave birth to her first child... and not long after the CD release, she gave birth to her second. Her new family moved to the northern wilderness in Ontario, where they now reside.