Call me old-fashioned, but I think most of the best voices in the world come out of folk singers. Maybe that's just because you can actually HEAR the singing, instead of the beats or the effects (which both have their places in my heart, don't get me wrong). Over the last year I've immersed myself in the Pacific Northwest's stellar Celtic folk music scene, and Colleen Raney has been the clear standout on my playlists and concert-going schedule. I'ma let you finish, but her voice is the best one I've heard in years.
Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
After she read my last post about sexist Christian music, my friend, Sarah Morice Brubaker of Religion Dispatches, told me I'd gotten a terrible Christian song called "How Beautiful" into her head. I'd heard it many years ago, but what I didn't realize was that it makes frequent appearances at evangelical Christian weddings. It's a truly horrific song, but it got me thinking: This business about "husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the church" is more or less the foundation of Christian Right politics. Any guesses where we can learn all about it? That's right: Dippy Christian wedding songs!
My sisters and I grew up listening to tons of great music together (Hannah is already on her way to being a famous guitarist and singer at 17!). So it was an obvious choice for us to get together and do a Bitchtapes when our sister, Jesse, came to visit us from Austin. What better topic than songs about sisters, brothers, and sibling relations? Track list after the jump!
I have a confession to make. I was raised in an evangelical Christian home, and when I was much much younger... I was a fan of contemporary Christian music (CCM). Oh, yes. I reailzed just how much of an affront to music it is almost half of my life ago, but lately, I've been thinking about just how entrenched it is in the ideology of the Christian Right. Consider this awful 1995 track by Twila Paris called "Rescue the Prisoner." (The "prisoner," it turns out, is a member of the LGBTQ community who is said to be "demanding rights" and "defending wrong.")
Zola Jesus can be hard to pin down. One minute, she smothers listeners with cold blankets of synthesizers, hitting them with some of the most uncomfortable atmospheres since Second Edition by PIL. Then her opera-trained voice (that voice!) bursts through the sludge and you realize "oh my god, it’s a pop song!" Live and on her latest record, Conatus, she drops a few more clues to the Zola Jesus mystery.
Full disclosure: I have had misgivings about Slutwalk from day one. "Slut" has never been a term used against me. Though the idea of reclaiming the word seems to resonate with many young, white heterosexual women, it is not clear to me that it's something that can unify all women. It felt alienating and exclusionary to me from the start.
A couple of commenters have raised questions about progressiveness in country music. Today, I want to suggest that there are progressive voices, at least in Americana, roots, and alt country music, but those voices are limited. They are almost always white, and usually populist and male. There are a few women in country who arguably identify as feminists. None of these artists are evangelical Christians like some major label country musicians, but faith imagery permeates much of their songwriting. It is often used in visions of a Utopian future, or it takes on a perverse meaning.
I am not sure what this says about me, but I love the dark themes that infuse Southern Gothic narratives. Alt country is one of my favorite genres, at least in part because it explores the most frightening vestiges of the human soul (I also like the pedal steel). In my defense, "Deep Red Bells" was my favorite Neko Case song before I learned that it was about the Green River murders* (lyrics):
So it goes like this: "[your favorite music blogger]: Readers, please check out Band A. Band A hails from Culture A (represent!) but sounds exactly like underrepresented Culture B. Like, can you believe your ears, doesn't it sound like Band A just sounds like all of these bands from Culture B that work hard and get little recognition in our giant Culture A?" This week it's time to sit down and talk about Extra Classic, a band from San Francisco, California; their love of Jamaican music; and what I'm going to deem the Vampire Weekend model of cultural appropriation.