I have been slowly dragging music off my CD shelves and into my iPod for the past couple of weeks. Between my past (and future) life as a music reviewer and Dan’s history as a music promoter, this process is bound to take awhile.
As I made tall stacks of favorite CDs yesterday, I began to realize that the percentage of recordings I grabbed made by women was significantly smaller than I imagined. That’s strange because I think we listen to more music by women in this house than many families do. It’s also strange because for the years that I regularly wrote CD reviews, I was one of the only female music writers in town, and assigned a disproportionate number of albums by women. I didn’t mind this for two reasons – I felt it was important that a wider number of female musicians got some press exposure, and it just so happens that solid, worthwhile female songwriters and performers have been coming out of the woodwork for the last 15 years.
As I listen, I’m amazed that while some of these women are still thriving (or struggling) in the music game, a few have fallen off the map entirely. I’ve scraped together a few links of songs I find worthwhile by the critically acclaimed and the obscure for your listening and viewing pleasure. There are 30 second samples on iTunes, full videos on YouTube and a free little playlist with the same title as this post that I may grow as I can (although getting my first song choice isn’t always feasible). The process has made me consider podcasting, but we’ll see.
My rule as a reviewer has always been to listen to a recording three times. Sometimes I’ve fallen in love with records I hated the first time through, other times things that I liked on the first listen bored me to tears by the third. I hope you enjoy these:
One of my favorite songwriters and performers, period. Although her lighter stuff had its ultimate life on the TV show “The Gilmore Girls,” her records are dark, Gothic and gorgeous.
A Boot and a Shoe, “Reflecting Light”: (Or “I Need Love” on YouTube)
Known as the “Mod Housewife” with pigtail braids and striped stockings back in the when, a lot of her songs are domestic ennui personified. She’s now living in France.
Diary of a Mod Housewife, “We’re Stronger Than That”:
I just like this woman’s voice. She has also apparently expatriated to France, where she sings with a band called Telepopmusik.
The Things We Do, “It’s Been Done”: YouTube video,
A member of alt country band Whiskeytown, her bandmate Ryan Adams went on to bigger fame, while she’s cut a few fairly well-received records.
I’m Staying Out, “Empty Rooms”:
I realize that she’s part of a major musical dynasty, but the emotional catharses she she shared on Rules of Travel and Black Cadillac about life, illness and death are just timeless.
Rules of Travel, “Beautiful Pain”:
(Or, from the same record, the haunting duet with her father, “September When It Comes” on YouTube.)
I didn’t like her old-timey voice at first, but it grew on me and I love her songwriting.
The Way I Should, “The Way I Should”:
(Or DeMent’s video on YouTube of Let the Mystery Be.)
And here is a woman who was in alt country band The Blood Oranges and had a solo record called “The Northeast Kingdom” that I adore, but it’s nowhere on iTunes or any playlist I can find. Sadly (for us anyway, probably happily for her)
, I understand that she’s making soap and raising flowers in New England, far from the turmoil of the music industry. Her name is Cheri Knight:
Here’s another woman who did some interesting things by blending music and slam poetry. She went for some easy laughs, but when I saw her live, I found her to be better than a novelty. She’s dropped of the map, but of you ever watched MTV when they actually played music, you may remember this video: Maggie Estep’s “Hey Baby“.
And here’s the playlist, with the songs I could find from these and some other artists:
What female artists do you love or feel haven’t gotten enough exposure?