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Published: Friday, 12/10/2004

Hatfield has found her voice

Juliana Hatfield Juliana Hatfield

From the start of her solo career in the early 1990s, Juliana Hatfield's music has defied trends and the usual labeling - is she a riot grrl or a sensitive singer/songwriter? - to stand on its own merits.

Hailing from Massachusetts where her father was a doctor and her mother a fashion editor of the Boston Globe, Hatfield's first group was the beloved indie pop trio the Blake Babies, which broke up in 1990.

Songs from her first disc, "Hey Babe," appeared frequently on college radio in 1992. The release's follow-up "Become What You Are" in 1994 spun off a series of modern rock hits, including "Spin the Bottle." For a few years Hatfield, who plays tomorrow night at the Ark in Ann Arbor, was all over the place in the media, appearing on the covers of magazines and popping up on MTV regularly.

She appeared in fashion layouts in Sassy and Vogue magazines and, after playing bass on the Lemonheads' commercial breakthrough "It's a Shame About Ray," was the subject of tabloid fodder because of her supposed romance with head Lemonhead Evan Dando.

Things settled down for Hatfield, 37, in the late '90s and as her audience shrank, she began releasing a series of discs that allowed her to pursue whatever creative avenue she wanted, from loud, distorted rock to quieter acoustic music. Her latest disc is "In Exile Deo," which has received critical raves for its combination of memorable melodies and hard-edged arrangements.

On her Web site, Hatfield addresses the cost of her earlier popularity: "The pressure to be something I was not was constant and unrelenting," she writes. "It was a battle to maintain a sense of authentic self when that self was still in the developmental stages."

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow for Juliana Hatfield's show at the Ark, 316 South Main St., in Ann Arbor. The show starts at 8. Tickets are $15. Information: 734-761-1800 or www.theark.org.

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