A queer guide to the best pop music gifts this season
Looking for that perfect stocking stuffer for the discerning audiophile friend? Concerned that you may be late to the party with Rufus, Melissa E., Michael Callen’s “Legacy,” Pansy Division, Velvet Mafia, Toshi Reagon, REM, Barbra, Bette, or BETTY?
The artists discussed below are sure to appeal to discerning queer listeners and web links are provided so you will know where you can check the aural pleasures they offer.
Michelle Malone STOMPIN’ GROUND
Sometimes known as the other Indigo Girl (she usually sits in with Amy and Emily on tour), Michelle Malone has been the best kept secret in Atlanta since she told Clive Davis to take his advice and shove it. (She made a classic Davis fingerprinted album on Arista in the 90s and didn’t recognize herself or her voice.)
Moanin’ Malone’s best friend and sometimes lover is her faithful electric guitar along with her constant companion Ms. Mandolin. You can find Michelle almost any night of the year somewhere on the roots and southern rock circuit, if you dare. This sassy lassie knows all the boy tricks of granola sound and Lynyrd Skynyrd licks to which she adds her own sapphic essence to ooze all over you.
Sandy Rapp FLAG AND RAINBOW
Here we have Old School women’s music. Sandy Rapp, who keeps alive the spirit of political organizing and social justice, which one of the principle organizers of what in the 70s became known as Women’s Music. It was hugely successful at the grassroots level, particularly with lesbians, for reflecting the authentic experiences of women’s lives. A couple of generations of artists lived and breathed this tradition, but very few ever crossed over into big time success, besides Melissa Etheridge.
Sandy Rapp’s “Flag and Rainbow” is the perfect bonding gift for an older lesbian in your life and I guarantee if you sit down with her to listen to songs about reproductive rights, Stonewall, the environment, and even Bella Abzug, your friend will wind up remembering a lifetime of experiences that made possible being out, a women, and a musician.
ASHLEY MacISAAC Eponymous
Canada’s bad boy of music, whose virtuoso fiddle playing—born of Cape Bretton Celtic tradition—sold millions of records internationally, was a true pop icon until he announced he liked boys just over the age of consent and started flashing the family jewels while twirling in his kilt at venues including the “David Letterman Show.” He’s back now with this album after a five-year hiatus and he not only fiddles like the devil-in-heat but sings like an avenging angel. The big surprise is the heart-stopping ballad “Lay Me Down” that could breathe life back into any destroyed love addict. This is a redemptive record for priests of all persuasions and every Irish pub-lover on your list.
Eclectic downtown music meister Reuben (Butchart) manages to mix funky R&B beats (Old School) with synth strings and trip hop mantras to funk up your soul. This was the Out Music Record of the Year––this time truly deserved! His love ode to his boyfriend, “Me and Rico,” tops a hands-down fab album.
70 PEOPLE AT 7000 FEET
Right On Records
Melissa Ferrick can justifiably be called the best live female performer on the road today provided Madonna stays at home writing children’s books and meditating. A child prodigy on the trumpet, Ferrick broke loose as a rocker in Boston. At 18, she signed with Atlantic Records and made an exceptional debut album “Massive Blur.” Five years later she found herself shattered in chic lesbian hell, lost in WeHo. Coming to her senses she returned home to Boston and nourished her talent and rebuilt her career.
Seven albums later, she is much wiser and at the peak of her immense talent. Teaming up professionally with Brian Winton as her drummer and music mate and also recently touring solo, she continues to wow audiences with her prodigious talent for song writing and passionate performing.
Ferrick is not afraid to sing about anything from hot sex to a broken heart. This latest, recorded live in Flagstaff, Arizona, is mesmerizing. It’s amazing what two musicians in total sync can do live before 70 people.
Kevin Aviance ENTITY
Finally, this six foot four disco diva/performance artist, whose self-description is “a black gay man who is a drag queen and musical artist,” has grown into the mature singing talent promised in his initial release “Box of Chocolates.” Over the last three years, singles like “Alive” and “Give it Up” have risen to anthemic heights in discos gay and straight all over the world. Now they are included in 12 brilliant cuts for your own house party.
Aviance goes from classic disco into Billie Holiday territory on a song called “Seattle.” “Entity” is an album of empowerment and strength and, following the footsteps of RuPaul, Aviance role models how to be young, gifted, black, gay, and outrageous.
Le Grand Magistery Records
Flare, made up of songwriter/vocalist LD Beghtol and an army of players, hangs out in the same bar, Dicks, where you will find the likes of Stephin Merritt and those intellectual art brats that actually deliver the goods when push comes to shove. “Hung” (what a delicious title) follows earlier Flare releases, “Bottom” and “Celebrate The Misery.” It is the art rock record of the year as it takes a queer walk down the dark alleys of the Velvet Underground’s purgatory.
Resonating with more than 78 instruments including ukulele, toy pianos, glockenspiels, handclaps, banjos, Tibetan bells, the CD somehow mates together Beach Boys harmonies with a Wire-ish assertion while twanging a la the Byrds, all underscored by a mad Harry Partch mixing up a tasty listening lubricant.
The passionate singing of LD Beghtol illuminates the sometimes transformational tales that he claims are not autobiographical. This is a major work… and even if the contents were not so brilliant, the packaging alone will make your favorite post-modern queer, who believes size does matter, breathless.
Swivel Hips SWIVELICIOUS
www.swivelhips.comA perfect gift for the Meow Mix girl or boy who would rather dance than talk politics. Who would have thought that Hartford, Connecticut of all places would be the home of the band that stole the stage and got everyone up to shake her booty at the Michigan’s Women Music Festival? Leader and vocalist Dawnie Swivel tips her hat to both Ella Fitzgerald and Patti LaBelle when she somehow manages to meld aspects of ska, Latin jazz, R&B, funk, and rock into what my ears tell me gives the Beastie Boys a run for party record of the year.
Scrumbly Koldewyn. Peter Mintun, and the Cockettes Ensemble
The Cockettes Movie Soundtrack
All your trannies and tranny chaser friends will have hoops of fun with this collection of Cockettes songs form the prize-wining and audience pleasing Cockettes documentary. Long before karaoke and live-to-track performances were invented, these outrageous San Francisco drag queens, most widely known for their outrageous 1972 spoof of nuptials in the Nixon White House, “Tricia’s Wedding,” never let a fear of success or lack of vocal skills stop them from singing out Louise. While the voices may be all over the place, the compositions are first rate––Koldewyn and Mintun are now recognized composers. Rediscovers treasures include a very young and sin-sational Sylvester singing “Jaded Lady.” It’s guaranteed to enliven any social gathering or Cockettes tribute party.
War All the time
East Village hotties Pablo Ratliff and Tim Daly have brought the anti-folk music scene into the 21st century. Not only did they produce the t-shirt of the year with their name spread across George Bush’s face, but they also make memorable music together. Formed to give a boy yang to the Indigo Girls’ yin, their band has surpassed its goal in this monumental release. Adding synth and techno sounds to the traditional acoustic folk instrumentation, the songs rock and give a good hint as to how powerful the sex between these two lovers must be. When gay spirit confronts political reality, nothing remains as it was. Imagine an American Soft Cell gone acoustic.
Contact Jim Fouratt: firstname.lastname@example.org