Those who were thrilled by the Magnetic Fields' magnum opus 69 Love Songs will recognize the name l d beghtol as one of the guest vocalists on the disc. Stephin Merritt and Claudia Ganson, of Magnetic Fields, get to return the favor as a guest performers on Never Mind The Context ( Magnetic ) , the debut disc by l d beghtol and Chris Xefos's band The Moth Wranglers. Beginning with their a capella rendition of the traditional "I Never Will Marry" ( which opens with the lines: "I never will marry/I'll be no man's wife" ) and moving into the sweltering country
swing of "Turnabout," you might think that the Moth Wranglers are wrangling to be insurgent country's queerest duo. However, by the grungy dirge-like "Six-Page Letter," they've flown off in another direction. The acoutic folk of "Miss Fire," the piano and vocal of "The Last Request of Mr. Ezra J...," and the oompah of the drinking song "Figure Ground," are all indelible. Stephin Merritt's lead vocal on "Let Go, Let Me" is an essential component to this album, and the gorgeous cover of OMD's "Souvenir" proves, once again, that gay men have the best taste.
Bitch and Animal are a female duo that is also based in New York City. Like The Moth Wranglers, Bitch and Animal explore different musical styles on their album Eternally Hard ( Righteous Babe ) , including homo hip-hop on "Best Cock On The Block" ( a ditty about dildoes ) and "Scrap Metal," riot grrrl rawness on "Boy Girl Wonder," acoustic punk on "Passports," performance art on "Prayer To The Sparkly Queen Areola" ( said to be about an experience in Provincetown ) , and the gorgeous and surreal on "Mother's Day." Listener beware: Bitch and Animal may not be to everyone's taste. However, if you're willing to expand your horizons, than Bitch and Animal are your guides.
I first became aware of Daniel Cartier when he was recommended to me by gay community legend and musical impresario Jim Fouratt. Cartier was scheduled to perform in Chicago and I attended his gig. With his shaved and tattooed head, I expected him to take the stage and rip into a queer punk rage. What I heard...a set of dazzling acoustic tunes sung in Cartier's impressive vocal range ...knocked me out. I wasn't the only one impressed by Cartier's abilities as he was signed, a few months later, to Elton John's Rocket Records label. That union was short-lived and now Cartier has returned with the self-released album Wide Outside ( Jindo ) . Now living back in New York after a few years in California, this collection marks the return of a gifted singer/songwriter as you can hear on the title track, "1981," "Storm" ( which features both a horn and a drum track! ) , "Verge Of Something," the poppy "Beautiful," "Tonight Is Rushing Right To My Brain," and "Any Day." ( www.danielcartier.com )
I never thought that I'd a call a Mark Eitzel album "sexy" in print, but The Invisible Man ( Matador ) , is "hot"! With its subtle electronic instrumentation ( "The Boy With The Hammer In The Paper Bag" ) , its bossa nova beats ( "Bitterness" ) , its acoustic moments ( "Can You See?" ) , its crooned vocals ( "Proclaim Your Joy" ) , its hallucinogenic trips ( "Christian Science Reading Room" ) , and its plaintive songs of hopeless romance ( "Shine," "Steve I Always Knew," "Seeing Eye Dog" ) , The Invisible Man might even rank as the queer thinking person's music to make love to.
East On Sunset ( Coastal ) by Kevin Henry is one of those independently released CDs that I wish was on a major-label. It deserves the kind of attention and push that can only be afforded by the deep pockets of a major-label. An openly gay Midwestern native, former NYC resident, and current L.A. transplant, Henry was honored in 2000 with a Los Angeles Music Award for "Best Male Singer/Songwriter." One listen to his amazing album and you can understand why he won that award. You can be sure that if Henry wasn't an indie artist, you might actually hear the buoyant pop of "Space," the dance rhythms of "Nothing Matters," the programmed beats of "One Of The Good Guys,"
and the beautiful ballads "Torch," "Angel" ( which reminded me of early Elton John ) , "29 Palms," and "Next Year" ( which was featured on the TV show Friends ) , on the radio. ( www.kevinhenry.com )
Sarah Dougher's The Walls Ablaze earned a place in the top ten of my best of 2000 end of the year list. Songs such as "What She'd Trade," "The New Carissa," "No-Handed," "The Match," and "The Scales," are still awe-inspiring. As varied as its precursor, her new album, The Bluff ( Mr. Lady ) , didn't grab me as immediately. It took a few listens to get through this album's veneer, but once inside, the rewards were rich. The complexities of the opening track "First Dream," the title track, "My Kingdom," "Turn Myself," "System Works," "The Homecoming," and "The Choice" recall The Walls Ablaze. The unexpectedly pleasant fifties retro pop of "Must Believe," "Wide Eyed," and "It's Raining," were the album's biggest surprises, and show that Dougher is willing to take interesting risks with her work.
Like the aforementioned Kevin Henry and Daniel Cartier, Texas-based gay singer/songwriter Christopher Wilson's East Mall Daze ( Cattle Call ) is an extremely independent effort. Wilson calls it his "long-overdue-library-book-of-a-CD," meaning that after performing in a variety of bands in various parts of the country he has finally released his own solo disc. The dozen songs are well-crafted folk pop tunes, heavily influenced by seventies and eighties California rock, the best of which include "Calling Kerry," "How Why & When," "Family Function," and "Wildflower."
Also based in Texas ( by way of New York ) is the band Paris By Night, fronted by openly gay lead singer Jeanine Acquart. Paris By Night were performers at the Ladyfest Midwest music event in Chicago duirng the summer of 2001. A few of the songs on their fourth album The Last Door ( Paris Passion ) , such as "Your Element," "Not The Way," and "Turned On Me," rock with a Southwestern spirit! ( www.parisbynight.com )
No Gay History Month music review column would be complete without something by a cabaret performer. In this instance, I am talking about Steve Kimbrough and his album The Here And Now ( Here ) . Accompanied on piano by John Paluch, Kimbrough has chosen to do a few familiar standards ( "You Don't Know Me," "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "Nice Work If You Can Get It," "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve," "The Best Is Yet To Come" ) . But, what makes this disc special is that Kimbrough also interprets songs by lesser-known artists...some of which have a strong connection to the gay community. For example, Kimbrough does lovely renditions of William Finn's "Father To Son" ( from March Of The Falsettos ) , Rick Crom's "One Last Prince," and Joe Kregor's "Take A Picture."