Catchy title, eh?
Before I discovered the fine art of list-making, I didn't much notice "genres" or any kind of man/woman thing. My record collection was divided into two. Good stuff and junk rock (friends know the real term for that horrifying part of my collection that I kept in the living room just to watch new acquaintances stutter in confusion when they thought I only owned stuff like Chicago and crap-period Linda Ronstadt albums!).
Anyhow, it being March, Women's History Month, I thought I'd play along and use it as an excuse to draw attention to "Women In Music."
This blog focuses on women who are not yet household names. Some should be, while others should just have their music bought and appreciated. The list is in vague general order. Coming in #23 or #17 is more a matter of me having to put that person somewhere.
I'm including their websites, so you can learn more on your own. My own comments will be somewhere between banal and useless, with an occasional insight accidentally breaking through. I will not be making any comments about physical appearance since it's come to my attention that I don't refer to male songwriters as "That incredibly hot Elvis Costello" or "That horse-faced Rob O'Connor." Well, sometimes. But not here. Jeez.
My job is to entertain, no matter how poorly I do, not to educate. You want to get educated? Go pay an Online University! They're awesome!
For now, let's get ice cream and listen to all the "newish" talent making names for themselves! And suddenly feel woefully inadequate because we don't have websites named after ourselves.
Frenchy and the Punk (formerly The Gypsy Nomads): Frenchy is Samantha Stephenson. The punk is Scott Helland. They're given this #25 distinction so you'll notice them without having to scroll down. They play an unclassifiable music (good!) that has links to the World of Steampunk. Helland is the dude who plays the messed-up guitar (an original member of Deep Wound with J Mascis and Lou Barlow) and keeps his head down as he journals through the music. And Stephenson is the gypsy queen, the woman with staggering charisma, whose healing energies can be felt pouring off the stage. How convenient she's a she! It's like they planned on making this column!
24) Susan James: I'm hitting this blog hard and heavy. Don't let the #24 designation fool you. James' self-released Highways, Ghosts and Home is an attractive album that calls out to Bob Dylan for inspiration. But methinks Bobby would be much inspired by having Ms. James around. Being a West Coast singer-songwriter used to mean something and now it does again! Take Susan home tonight!
22) Tift Merritt: Her album See You On the Moon is quite nice and for a country-influenced singer she doesn't sound like her music should accompany a fireworks display. Her music has (hold your breath)....Merritt (Ring the bell, I've just proven I can write newspaper headlines! No, I don't do this in real life. I wouldn't hang out with me if I did. Punning is atrocious!)
Maggie Bjorklund: Maggie is a Danish pedal steel player, which is like being Germany's greatest Calypso singer. But crazier things have happened and Maggie has recorded with Calexico and has a new album coming to us from Bloodshot Records, a label that knows a lot about real country music. Her music has...Bjorklund! (Wait, that didn't work. KORDOSH!)
20) Shannon McNally: McNally is one of those "industry's best kept secrets." She's been signed to a major label and recorded with serious music industry heavies. She's opened for Stevie Nicks. And she has a new album that will surely not make her a star (there are no more real musician/stars anymore) but will make the people that like her, like her even more. She is "keeping it real" like the others on this fine list. Shannon used to busk on the streets of Paris. (Pay attention. This is conceptual!)
Foxtails Brigade (Laura Weinbach): Led by Laura Weinbach, who also busked on the streets of Paris, Foxtails Brigade will bring us their debut album, The Bread and the Bait, on Antenna Farm Records this April 12. There will be no drums on the album, "just quiet, finger-picked guitar, ethereal vocals and simple violin and cello melodies; the perfect accompaniment for an afternoon tea," says the bio. With description this good, I don't have to work!
18) Blame Sally: This all-female San Francisco-based band is releasing its fifth full-length album on May 3. This is the first time the band has appeared at this blog, to which I feel incredibly guilty. You'd think I'd read more of my emails through the years. But I'd rather panhandle down at the mall and make some real money. Selling oregano is good business.
Thea Gilmore: My good friend Suzanne Scott is one of the most amazing singers I have ever been privy to hear sing in my car. She also has an ear for other singers. She picked Thea Gilmore, a British singer-songwriter. She has been making records for over twelve years and yet she is little known here in the States. (I'm making this part up. I don't pay attention to the world around me.) Suzanne also suggests Karine Polwart and Diane Birch. So buy them today!
16) Clare and the Reasons: My good friend Dan Green sent me an impressive list of his favorite female singers and Clare Manchon of Clare and the Reasons was among the singers that immediately stuck out. (Others you may enjoy include Jesca Hoop, Anna Calvi, Jolie Holland, Adele, Joanna Newsom, Christina Courtin and Melora Creager among the names on his list). Clare's band is Brooklyn-based, but don't hold that against them. Their debut album, The Movie, featured contributions from Van Dyke Parks and Sufjan Stevens. Their second album, Arrow, was recorded in their apartment.
Kathryn Williams: Any singer who releases an album of covers that includes Neil Young's "Birds," Alex Chilton's "Thirteen," Tim Hardin's "How Can We Hang On To A Dream" and The Bee Gees' "I Started a Joke," as Kathryn Williams did on her album Relations, is a singer I immediately want to know more about. She has been making records of her own songs since 1999. She was born in Liverpool, England and has collaborated with Neill Maccoll, John Martyn, Tobias Froberg and Thea Gilmore. (I love when things work out like this.)
14) Ruth Gerson: Ruth Gerson has been self-releasing albums and performing in people's living rooms and anywhere else the people want to hear her for many years now. Ruth's latest album, Deceived, is a collection of covers that go deep into Americana and the odd resignation it has towards domestic violence. "Omie Wise," "Little Sadie," "Banks of the Ohio," the list reads like a Bob Dylan album. 100% of the artist proceeds from digital downloads will be donated to organizations that benefit victims of domestic violence. (First person to suggest this album is a "knockout" goes directly to jail!)
Marissa Nadler: The aforementioned Dan Green turned me on to Ms. Nadler. Even though I'd had her CDs sitting around in the piles, it hadn't jumped out at me. But music isn't just some inanimate object. It's often about time, place, friendship, enthusiasm. I've always maintained that just about any music can be sold to you by someone who believes. I've done my share. Everyone I know owns an American Music Club album because of me. And some even covet that Gladstone album I own!
12) Meg Baird: As a leading member of Espers and the maker of a fine solo album, Dear Companion, Baird is the mountain dulcimer player that I'm most inclined to listen to. She also appears as a backing vocalist on the album Epic by Sharon Van Etten, a name you're about to meet. The great thing about Baird? Her music sounds like it doesn't listen to contemporary music. Like hard drugs, it successfully avoids reality.
Vivian Girls: Another group from Brooklyn, but we won't hold it against them, Vivian Girls are set to release their third album, Share the Joy, this Spring. The band is led by Katy "Kickball Katy" Goodman and Cassie Ramone. Rather than describe their music and make it sound inaccurate, I suggest you check out their MySpace page and hear for yourself.
10) Becca Stevens Band: According to her bio, Ms. Stevens was "hailed by The New York Times as a 'best kept secret'," which means it's not much of a secret anymore, unless everyone has given up reading, which may be true. To say I was blown away by her reinvention of the Smiths' "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" is pretty much accurate. The rest of her album Weightless should further convince you to let this talent into your life. Unless, of course, you've grown old and cold and never let love or sunshine or cuddly pets into your home. Jerk.
La Sera: "Kickball Katy" of the Vivian Girls is pulling off a solo project here, just so she could get mentioned twice in one blog. I like her ambition. And I like her airy textures. Even crazier, she also has another side project called All Saints Day and they've made an EP. Sorry, Kickball Katy, two is my limit. I'm not promoting All Saints Day one lick. Can't do it.
8) Christy & Emily: I'm starting to think that Brooklyn, NY is populated solely by musicians who send me music. This duo's third and latest album, No Rest, is produced by Hans Joachim Irmler from the version of Faust who did not just release the album Something Dirty. Christy & Emily's music is quite cool and spooky and worthy playing at a funeral or in your car as you drive into the abyss.
Lia Ices: Lia records for the fabulous Jagjaguwar label. If that label gives something their blessing, you know it's going to be, at the very least, interesting. Lia's new album, Grown Unknown, is already penciled in on my best-of records of the year. Why not put it in ink on yours?
6) Sharon Van Etten: Faithfull readers of this blog - by which I mean people who read it regularly; it's not cheating if you also read Hip-Hop Media Training! - will recognize Ms. Van Etten's name. Her album Epic made my top 25 of 2010 and it seems that others are taking far more notice of her than I could've imagined. Sadly, my support usually results in less success. But she opened a tour for The National and is now once again hitting the road for more touring because she apparently does not want to spend any time at home. Go Sharon!
Joan As Police Woman: As the girlfriend of Jeff Buckley, Joan Wasser was living the dream. After all, what young woman didn't want that job? In the ensuing years since his death, Wasser has been building a career as a singer who can bring an audience to tears. Her latest album, The Deep Field, was released this past winter. Catch it!
4) Liz Janes: By attending college in Olympia, Washington, Liz Janes ensured that she would be exposed to the wide-angle view of the arts. She hooked up with the Olympia noise scene before realizing that she was best as a quiet folkie with songs that turned inward. Like a bellybutton, Liz is a solid innie.
Priscilla Ahn: She left Pennsylvania for Los Angeles, because that is what musicians do if they intend to be noticed. Ahn's persistence paid off since she's since made records for Blue Note and will have a new one for us on May 3. I hope you people are clicking on the websites and hearing the music and making up your own minds. My back is killing me.
2) Uh Huh Her: Around this time in my list-making, I begin thinking of all the people I've left off and worry about the ones who are so obvious and yet I have forgotten. This two-woman band from Los Angeles, Camila Grey, who has performed with Dr. Dre and is a member of Adam Lambert's live band, and Leisha Hailey, who was on something called "The L Word," make music that according to the New Yorker magazine, "traffic(s) in throbbing synth-pop that's destined to make mascara run." No mention of what it will do to those of us who do not partake in mascara. Perhaps it makes us smell worse.
The Coathangers: New album, their third, coming in April, The Coathangers should take over the world, if only because of their brilliant name and the fact that they rock. Which sounds so simple, but is obviously not, since so many groups fail to do this. They're irreverent and silly and serious. And seem to be having a good time. I can safely say their music sounds nothing like a miserable Russian winter.