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Queer Music

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Mary Gauthier, Johnny Mathis, Telly Leung, and others.
by Gregg Shapiro

For her first album since 2010’s heartbreaking and acclaimed The Foundling, Mary Gauthier (pronounced go-shay, as you probably know by now) gives us the self-released concert set Live at Blue Rock (marygauthier.com). All but one of Gauthier’s six studio discs are represented here, with three songs drawn from her breakthrough disc Drag Queens in Limousines (the title tune, “Karla Faye,” and “Our Lady of the Shooting Stars”). Still deserving of the queer Lucinda Williams tag (that’s a compliment), Gauthier is triumphant on “I Drink” and “Sugar Cane” (co-written with fellow queer singer/songwriter Catie Curtis). But perhaps the most revelatory aspect of the disc is that it includes not one, but three covers by kindred spirit Fred Eaglesmith—opener “Your Sister Cried,” “Cigarette Machine,” and “The Rocket.” If he’s wise, Eaglesmith will return the favor.

After morphing from the porno punk of Super 8 Cum Shot into the muscle-bound smut rock of Jinx Titanic, Jinx and his new band the Ladykillers get all dressed up and explore their bi side on Mister Casanova (jinxtitanic.com). As if to make sure that he doesn’t alienate long-term followers who might not know what to make of some of the musical changes, Titanic ease listeners in slowly, like any thoughtful lover would, opening the disc with “Rocket to Uranus.” While the lyrics are pure JT, you might notice a retro/rockabilly bent to the arrangements, something that continues throughout the disc. Sometimes it’s Latin-spiced (as on “Red Light!” and the instrumental “Mi Corazón”), other times it’s strip-club doo-wop (“Congratulations! Goodbye!”), or it’s gritty/brassy on the “Dirty Little So and So” duet with grand dame Catherine Smitko or straightforward rockabilly on “Once You Go Fat, You Never Go Back” (which contains the brilliant line “She shook her head and said I don’t fail/I weigh myself on the Richter scale”).

Now a one-man operation, queer electro act Dangerous Muse (not to be confused with Danger Mouse) continues to embrace the EDM esthetic on the five-song EP Red (dangerousmuse.com). DM plays with some of the newfangled toys on “Homewrecker,” doing techno tricks with the vocals. “I Can’t Help It” sounds a bit like Ministry (in their pre-heavy-industrial period) won’t be able to help but like it. The album’s centerpiece, “Fame Kills,” goes on a bit too long (at almost seven minutes), but it gets points for recalling vintage 12-inch disco vinyl.

Singer/actor Telly Leung is part of the new generation of Broadway performers who are stretching the bounds of cabaret, coloring outside the lines of the Great American Songbook. On his debut recording I’ll Cover You (Yellow Sound), Leung isn’t afraid to mix the seventies (Stevie Wonder’s “Knocks Me Off My Feet” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”) with show tunes (“Children Will Listen,” “Before the Parade Passes By,” and the title track). An unfortunate reading of Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” can be overlooked for more inventive selections such as Indigo Girls’s “Galileo” and Katy Perry’s “Firework” (really!). Leung must also be a Holly Cole fan since he covers a pair of tunes—“Cry (If You Want To)” and “I Can See Clearly Now”—found on the Canadian diva’s debut.

Prince’s influence on the band Avan Lava is immediately obvious on “Tear It Down,” the opening cut on their six-song EP Flex Fantasy (avanlava.com). It also comes through loud and queer on “It’s Never Over,” but it’s never overdone. “Slow Motion” lives up to its name, and “Feels Good” delivers good feelings. Rumor has it that to get the full impact, Avan Lava must be seen live, so check out their website for dates.

Long before there was the smooth seduction of Prince, there was Johnny Mathis. Just as there is only one Prince, there is only one Johnny Mathis. Following his successful early years on Columbia Records, Mathis briefly parted ways with the label and recorded for Mercury. Four of those albums, and the unreleased Broadway, have made their way to CD on Real Gone Music. Broadway is paired up with Love Is Everything, from 1965. The themes of tenderness and fantasy are explored on 1964’s Tender Is the Night and The Wonderful World of Make Believe, respectively.

Another EP enthusiast, Chris Riffle is back with the dreamy six-song disc Another Dream (chrisriffle.com). As fellow out artist AG did on her The Beatles EP, Riffle puts a queer spin on a familiar Lennon/McCartney tune, transforming “And I Love Her” to “And I Love Him” with ease and success. Also deserving of your undivided attention is the gorgeous title cut “While You Run,” as well as “Far from the Sea.”

You can keep the beautiful gay music coming with Gallantry’s Favorite Son by Scott Matthew and Put Your Back N 2 It (Matador) by Perfume Genius. If you’d rather be dancing, there’s Gay Pimp (and comedian) Jonny McGovern’s The Gayest of All Time and Make Me Believe in Hope by Bright Light Bright Light. While you’re at it, don’t forget about Making My Way by Andy Northrup, No Bread by The Northside Southpaws, Love Is the Power by Richard Anthony, and Soul Riot by Michael Mirlas.

Gregg Shapiro is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.

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Gregg Shapiro

Gregg Shapiro is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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