Smitty and Julija
Made in Ojai

Smitty and Julija — the shorthand for duo Smitty West and Julija Zonic — have been a fixture of the Ojai music scene for some time. Their most recent release, Made in Ojai, boasts 14 songs that manage to be compelling without betraying the musical tradition its creators are clearly ensconced in. West’s fussier sensibilities — the pianist, vocalist and songwriter has won multiple songwriting awards and is the lead pianist in the Ventura Jazz Orchestra — is thankfully offset by his partner’s robust, earthy vocals. While Zonic succeeds in injecting many of these songs with her unique humanity — the singer was born in Croatia and has been a professional performer since childhood — Made in Ojai is still largely an exercise in superb songwriting craftsmanship, with the emotional asepsis that can imply. The duo are at their strongest and most interesting when they attempt to cover new ground: “Trust Fund Hippie” is the real highlight here, a winking, Randy Newmanesque sendup of New Age chic that could only be written from an Ojaian’s perspective. (Ever notice how the only typeface that seems to exist in Ojai is “papyrus”? Surely Smitty and Julija have.) — Morgan Troper

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