Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Julie Byrne quickly received favorable comparisons to folk titans Vashti Bunyan and Joni Mitchell after releasing her first two records. Byrne was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, and her father was a wedding singer. She didn't begin to play music herself until she was 17, when her father was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and could no longer sing. She left her hometown at the age of 18 and began what would become a nomadic existence. She moved to Chicago but dropped out of school there and worked in a grocery store. Unfulfilled by her new job, she began making music. Her first proper record, Rooms with Walls & Windows, was a compilation of two earlier cassettes: Julie Byrne and You Would Love It Here, which were recorded live while she was living in Chicago in 2012 and 2013. By the time it was released by the small independent label Orindal in 2014, Byrne had moved to New Orleans, but was soon bound for New York. During her time there, she became a park ranger in Central Park. She also made a pilgrimage to her childhood home in Buffalo to record her follow-up record, Not Even Happiness, with violinist Jake Falby and producer Eric Littman. The nod to her past made by recording at her childhood home was countered by the album's attempts to come to terms with the transient lifestyle she had chosen. The record was met with widespread critical acclaim upon its release in 2017, with music journalists praising Byrne's songwriting (that drew heavily from the folk tradition), and her voice.
“Ultimate Marker of Enlightenment”
“Like Joni Mitchell’s spare 1976 masterpiece Hejira, Not Even Happiness is a lonesome travel album par excellence”
“a triumph of subtlety, proof that music doesn't have to be forceful to be powerful”
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