All testosterone will be left at the door Tuesday night, as the past, present, and future of women’s music invade Eddie’s Attic. Yet the music of Ferron, Bitch, and Rachael Sage is so good that it transcends gender in much the same way Jackie Robinson and Muhammed Ali transcended sports.
Ferron is much more than the answer to the trivia question, “What if Bob Dylan had been born a Canadian lesbian?” For one thing, unlike her nasal counterpart, Ferron’s voice is rich and beautiful. Yet like Dylan, Ferron is a poet who is able to convey emotion without becoming maudlin, and beliefs without edging toward the pedantic. Like the great artist that she is, she paints a picture and has the listeners derive from it what they will, based on their own personal experiences.
Among female singer/songwriters, Ferron holds goddess-like status. It is why so many of them show up to play on her new CD, Boulder(available June 17th). Ani diFranco, the Indigo Girls, and Samantha Parton of the Be Good Tanyas all make appearances. Their impact is minimal, and one gets the sense they just wanted to be a part of a record made by their idol, and maybe, in doing so, introduce their fans to her. Those fans would be richer for the experience.
The CD is produced by Ferron disciple, Bitch, and is released on Bitch’s new record label, Short Story Records. While Bitch’s songs tend to be more blatant and humorous than Ferron’s (she sings odes to strap-ons and rants against rapists), she wisely tones it down in her producer role. Boulderis a sparsely produced reworking of many of Ferron’s songs, both recent and classic (as well as one Bitch original, “Highway”). Her voice has retained its richness and depth through the years. It is as soothing as it is passionate. Bitch offers some of gentle electric violin, which compliments many of the tracks. The only song that really get the remix treatment is Ferron’s classic, “Misty Mountain,” which becomes a talking song with beats and howls in the background that remind us of Ferron’s American Indian (part Cree and part Ojibwa) heritage. It’s interesting but obvious, and ultimately does not work with the otherwise flawless CD.
On stage together, Bitch and Ferron offer playful banter that lighten the weight of many of their songs. In short, they’re a mutual admiration society and they’re having fun together.
Opening for them is another woman who enjoys having her fun. Rachael Sage, who also started her own label, MPress Records, is all about glitter and glamour. It’s just that she has this remarkable talent as well. Her previous CD, The Blistering Sun, was a sort of coming out party for Sage. It was there, on her 7th CD, that she made the effortless transition from folk singer to pop singer. With her swirling piano and crystalline voice, her songs drill themselves into the listener’s head and stay nestled there for years. Imagine a less weird but more artsy Tori Amos with better pop sensibilities.
The fact of the matter is that Rachael Sage is so damn talented that everyone would hate her if she weren’t so self-effacing and charming. She’s genuine. She’s just like us, only with a boatload more talent.
Her latest CD, Chandelier, offers more gems. It opens with “Vertigo,” a song about a man she had a brief relationship with before she found out he was married. She sets the mood with her ominous opening piano lines. But, like Ferron, she does spend the song navel gazing. She takes a real life situation and makes it art. The end result is a song that sounds like a film noir waiting to happen.
Like another of her idols, Elvis Costello, Sage also pays strict attention to detail. She loves to experiment with horns, often to great effect. They skip along through songs like “Angel in My View,” and offer a jazzy backdrop to “Site-Seeing.” Like Costello and Jill Sobule, Sage puts a great deal of effort into making her songs sound deceptively simple. The melody carries the listener along. It is not until the twentieth or so time after pressing play that listeners realize they have not tired of the music. And that is simply because it offers something new and different each time.
An accomplished ballerina and painter, Sage’s live shows have a certain theatrical quality to them. She should do more than hold her own opening for Ferron. It’s just a pity that someone has to be the opening act.
These are three strong, independent women who all represent themselves differently, but all do so with great energy, creativity and beauty. This show recommended for all lovers of good music, men and women alike.
Ferron, Bitch, and Rachael Sage play Eddie’s Attic on Tuesday, May 13th.
Doors 6:30 pm.
Show 8:00 pm