If anyone has a right to sing the blues, it’s queer blues belter Candye Kane. A pancreatic cancer survivor, Kane has traveled a bumpy road personally and professionally, but is, as her 2000 disc declared, The Toughest Girl in the World. That spirit shines through on her latest disc, Coming Out Swinging (Vizztone). Teaming up once again with young guitar wonder Laura Chavez, Kane wails and works her way through a set of thirteen tracks, nine of which are original compositions. Knockouts include “Au Revoir Y’all” (sung mostly en français!), the anthemic “Rise Up!” and the intoxicating “I’m the Reason Why You Drink,” as well as Kane’s swinging interpretation of “Marijuana Boogie.”
Women’s music legend Tret Fure is now in her fifth decade as a recording artist. At her most prolific in this current century, Fure has released half a dozen discs since 2001, the latest being A Piece of the Sky (Tomboy Girl). She uncovers the mysteries of our bodies, souls, and hearts on the title cut and makes an unexpected (and lovely) reference to “Somewhere over the Rainbow” in “Bluebird,” a song about giving love another chance. “The Zen of Being” brings a whole new perspective to calendars and the march of time. “Bucket of Tears” is the tearjerker its title implies. The bouncy “The Artist Way” is the kind of personal career statement that only Fure could make, and “My Best” is the result of her reflecting on having lived a full and creative life. To close the disc, Fure digs into her personal record crates with “That Side of the Moon,” a song that originally appeared on her 1984 Terminal Hold album.
Like Kane and Fure, out singer/songwriter Michelle Malone has been all over the record label map, even recording for Arista (the Lenny Kaye-produced Relentless), as well as Walter Yetnikoff’s Velvel (Beneath the Devil Moon) and Amy Ray’s Daemon. Day 2, released on her own SBS (Strange Bird Songs) label, co-produced by fellow Georgia native Shawn Mullins (of “Lullaby” fame) and Gerry Hansen, finds Malone going deeper into her southern roots. On “Other Girls,” Malone conjures Lucinda Williams at her most raucous. She proudly displays her political side on “Immigration Game” and then gets personal on the smoldering “Marlboro Man” and the heavenly “St. Peter.” “The Auditor” and “Wasted on You” are proof that Malone has maintained her sense of humor after all these years.
Made in L.A. and produced by Dave Sitek (of the TV on the Radio band), Planta (SQE Music)—by queer, all-female, Brazilian dance outfit CSS—won’t take long to grow on listeners. The sticky “Honey” gets things off to a sweet(heart) start. “Hangover” is drunk on hip-hop, and the radiant “Into the Sun” burns so good. CSS goes “crazy” on the explosive “Dynamite,” and “Too Hot” more than lives up to its title. “The Hangout” borrows from the eighties, while “Teenage Tiger Cat” sounds like the future.
There’s only one thing wrong with the five-song Name Game EP by queer duo We Are/She Is. It’s too short, leaving listeners hanging, desperate to hear what else the pair is capable of doing. No one likes to be teased (or to be called a tease), but if that’s what We Are/She Is intended to do, they have succeeded. It’s safe to say that with only five songs, there’s not a clunker to be found. As exhilarating as the best pop music can be, the delirious anthem “And the World” sets the pace with its fist-pumping energy. “Voices” are the kind you won’t mind having in your head, and “Ricochet” will keep you bouncing off the walls.
There’s nothing remotely resembling the sophomore slump on lesbian singer/songwriter Julia Weldon’s awesome second disc Light Is a Ghost (juliaweldon.com). An exceptional songwriter and musician, Weldon offers new hope for the next generation of queer female performers, writing with a maturity that belies her youth. It’s hard not be effusive after listening (repeatedly) to songs such as “Meadow,” “Went to My Woman,” “Careful in the Dark,” “You Never Know,” and “Soon.” Julia Weldon, who doesn’t shy away from queer subject matter in her songs (the amazing “All I Gave Her” and “All the Birds”), is an artist with whom you will want to become well-acquainted—and the sooner the better.
Gregg Shapiro is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.