By: Susan Gathman
2012 has been a fantastic year for Escondido natives Talk Like June (TLJ). This energetic quintet is led by Suzanne Harper, backed by Eric Bird (lead guitar), John Harper (drums), Ross Harper (banjo/mandolin/slide), and Jason “Hollywood” Roberts (bass); all Escondido natives, longtime friends, and musical collaborators. The close relationships and variety of musical influences they bring to their music – from Garth Brooks and Glenn Miller to Alanis Morrisette, Metallica, and the Dave Matthews Band – create a tight musical sound and a live show that is definitely worth checking out.
Vocalist Suzanne Harper describes TLJ’s sound as “California Country. It’s got a little less twang and a little more rock, but still stays true to the story-telling and lyrically driven country genre.” Several of the band’s songs including “Give it a Try,” “Fences,” and “Seventeen” are classic, sweet country tunes that touch on well-worn tropes, bringing to mind Carrie Underwood or Lady Antebellum. Their slower and more wistful numbers, “Without You” and “Can We Fall in Love Again” detail the deterioration of a long-term relationship; while Suzanne’s soaring, confident vocals stand out in some of their more sassy, harder-edged crowd-pleasers like “California,” “Reckoning,” and “Take That.” One of Suzanne’s favorite numbers is “Hallelujah,” which features the sound of rousing banjo as background and a stirring a capella final chorus. Written in response to a time of personal struggle, it celebrates coming home. Suzanne explains, “What I love about this song [is] it can mean so many different things to different people, but it is always a message of hope; there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Equally as enjoyable are TLJ’s covers which most often can be heard as the band is warming up. At a recent show, I caught Suzanne’s spot-on rendition of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” – booming vocals and all – and a whimsical, countrified cover of Sublime’s “What I Got” which is more than the sum of its parts, this fresh take on a classic just works. TLJ provides music you can sing along to, enjoy as a backdrop to a warm evening at the fairground or turn up as you drive the back roads. It’s sincere, gutsy, and can’t help but lift your spirits.
The band has taken off in recent months, connecting with the San Diego music scene through KPRI’s Homegrown Hour, expanding their fan base exponentially and putting out an eponymous CD. They were named finalists in the Hard Rock Rising Battle of the Bands and won KPRI’s Battle of the Fans this summer (paving the way for them to open for Walk the Moon, Trystan Prettyman, and the Wallflowers). Suzanne Harper sang with Sugarland at Cricket Wireless Amphitheater in May 2012, will be competing on “3 Minutes to Stardom” this month, and recently received two awards for her vocals; 2012 Female Vocalist of the Year in New Country and the Horizon Female Entertainer of the Year by the West Coast Country Music Association. TLJ’s star is rising fast, their musical repertoire is growing, and great things are ahead for them.
You can catch TLJ at Anthology on September 27, at Winston’s in Ocean Beach on September 28, and at San Diego’s House of Blues on November 6. For further details and other shows, look for their Facebook page.