Scottish duo JuBillee – comprised of vocalist Justine Wilson and singer, guitarist and pianist Billy Warren – have already made an impression on the UK country scene, with their single Don’t Make Me Look Into Your Eyes topping the iTunes Country Chart and reaching the Top 40. Now they’re about to be even bigger with the release of their debut album ‘You and I’.
The 12-track LP opens with A Party Ain’t A Party, which opens with a shimmering, slowed-down classic rock feel reminiscent of the Eagles or Fleetwood Mac before a pulsing drumbeat kicks in. Justine’s voice has a nice edge to it and she and Billy show off some great harmonies throughout the song, especially on the quick-fire singalong chorus which put me in mind of The Shires’ Guilty (including swapping police sirens for firework effects!). I loved the feisty lyrics too and was impressed with the huge notes Justine hit later in the song.
When I spoke to the band recently they described their sound as country-pop with a rock element, and that definitely comes through strongly on this record. The summery Something Inside, which sees Billy showing off his rich, smooth lead vocals, makes you want to play it driving down a road on a sunny day, whilst Don’t Make Me Look Into Your Eyes starts off with light, twangy guitars and Justine and Billy exchanging sweet nothings before building to a big upbeat chorus. I can see why they’ve been told people want it as their wedding song!
Elsewhere, the rock touches are in abundance on songs like The Last Time, with its heavy beat, punchy guitars and Billy’s quick delivery that sees him showing off the belt in his voice and plenty of confidence and power. Current single Bed Of Lies is a particularly strong example of this, with its slide guitar, vivid images of pink champagne and runaway trains and stomping beat. Justine’s calm, measured vocals adds to the power of the track too, giving it even more weight when she belts out a huge note.
That said, there’s still plenty here for UK country fans to like. The high-energy Little Darlin blends rock guitars with a 90s country-influenced melody, harmonica and even a bit of country drawl in Justine’s voice, whilst kiss-off anthem Getting Over You kicks off with a cheeky spoken word intro before bursting into twangy guitars and a funky, driving rhythm. It’s playful with bags of attitude and I loved the touch of growl Justine brings to it as well. Meanwhile, So Over Loving You has a great retro country feel, as well as beautiful storytelling as Justine narrates the story of a woman who decides to take control and leave her relationship. It’s subdued yet hopeful and I’d love to see the band record more songs like this in future.
For all the high-energy moments, many of the standout songs for me were the slower numbers. The piano-led Gasoline is an early highlight, with Justine’s gentle, sweet vocals bringing a real rawness and honesty to the songs, whilst the background strings add an almost cinematic vibe. You really feel every ounce of emotion she’s pouring into the song and it’s impossible not to be moved by it. Later on, My Father Told Me sees the duo blending their vocals on an emotional, weighty track that ends with a dramatic sweeping finish, and I Wonder Who Is Loving You Tonight is a bittersweet, stripped-back ballad which shows off their harmonies and their ability to convey so much feeling in a simple melody. Their voices work so well together and those quieter moments really allow them to shine.
The album closes with the title track, which brings the whole thing full circle. It’s an uptempo, classic rock-influenced number with an anthemic feel and a slightly 80s vibe (in a good way!). Justine and Billy’s vocals balance each other out perfectly, with both having the opportunities to show off the power in their voices, and the song has a great energy about it, as well as a fun, joyful feeling that ends the record on a positive note.
Overall ‘You And I’ is a solid debut that shows why JuBillee have won over plenty of fans already and sets up them to be one of the next breakthrough acts on the UK country scene. They’re great vocalists, with fantastic harmonies and a great ability to capture the emotion of a song and tell its story, as well as having a good mix of styles across the record and a strong energy that ties the whole thing together. It’s a very good start for them indeed and I’ll be interested to see where they go from here.
Track listing: 1. A Party Ain’t A Party 2. Bed Of Lies 3. Something Inside 4. Gasoline 5. Getting Over You 6. Don’t Make Me Look Into Your Eyes 7. So Over Loving You 8. The Last Time 9. Little Darlin 10. My Father Told Me 11. I Wonder Who Is Loving You Tonight 12. You And I Record label: Vacancy Records Release date: 6th November 2020