The performance space at Rocks drew a crowd on Thursday evening as Natalie D-Napoleon, fresh off Florida’s Australian Festival, prepared to launch her new CD, After the Flood. The Australian singer/songwriter seems to have garnered quite a following during a recent stay in Santa Barbara. Although the album was officially launched in Australia in October, enough interest in D-Napoleon’s music was generated during her Santa Barbara visit to warrant a stateside release as well.
After an opening set of easygoing acoustic pop by Jesse Rhodes, D-Napoleon breezed confidently onstage and kicked off her set with “The Party,” a sassy, accusatory number that showcased her strong, soaring vocals. After a handful of solo numbers, D-Napoleon was joined by an impressive roster of talent. The sublimely talented Kenny Edwards joined in after the third song and remained by D-Napoleon’s side for the rest of the evening, enhancing her skilled strumming with his atmospheric electric guitar and mandolin.
D-Napoleon’s songs of love and longing, sung with an endearing country twang and laced with an Australian accent, trace a raw yet joyous path through human relationships. Between songs, she charmed the audience with personal anecdotes. After a quick primer on Australian versus American English to ensure that her lyrics wouldn’t be lost in translation, D-Napoleon treated the audience to “Slow Burn,” a lyrically vivid, beseeching lament delivered in clear, crisp tones. In “Jeff Tweedy’s 49th Beard,” D-Napoleon breathily describes an imagined tryst with the Wilco singer. “Daisy Grinding,” a sad lament that launched D-Napoleon’s last band, Flavour of the Month, into the Australian spotlight, saw multi-instrumentalist Dan Phillips on piano. On “How Seamless Seemed Love,” D-Napoleon was ably accompanied by Phillips on percussion, Edwards on electric guitar, and Rhodes on backing vocals. As the evening drew to a close, Leonard Cohen collaborator and Santa Barbara-based singer/songwriter Julie Christensen lent some countrified harmonies to the chorus of “After the Flood,” fittingly titled, for now that the floodgates of D-Napoleon’s enormous talent have been opened on either side of the Pacific, we can hope to hear a lot more from her on this end.