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bearded ladies

April 24th, 2008     by Anna Leventhal     Comments

In my years as a community-radio DJ, I’ve received many a promotional CD for a female artist with that most backhanded of compliments in its promo material: “Not your usual female singer-songwriter”. Okay, I take most music journalism about as seriously as I take Stephen Colbert’s presidential campaign, but this is annoying for so many reasons. What is “your usual female singer-songwriter”, and what’s so bad about that? Did Joni Mitchell really traumatize so many children of baby-boomers that we can no longer conceive of the (extremely broad!) category of female singer-songwriters as anything but derivative and banal? Humph. (Not that I think Joni is derivate and banal. But admittedly she did spawn a legion of copycats who occasionally make me want to poke my ears out.)

Okay. Now that I have that off my chest, here’s my recommendation for this week: Finders Keepers has released a compilation of female singer-songwriters called Bearded Ladies that is anything but banal, gooey, or involving songs about menstruation. What’s nice about this comp is that it seems to have no driving theme other than the unusual and the awesome - the songs date from the 1970s to last year, and the artists are from the USA, France, Turkey, and elsewhere. All the songs could be roughly categorized as folk(ish), but they all decidedly push the boundaries of what can be done with a guitar and a single voice. For instance, Peachtree, the contribution from Lispector (which you can listen to on the Finders Keepers site) is from 2007 but could have come from decades ago, with its 4-track warmth and meandering style.

Other contributors include Turkish protest singer Selda, Wendy & Bonnie, Speck Mountain, and the indescribable Brigitte Fontaine. In fact, I’m not even going to try to describe her. Just watch the video below the cut. Laurie Anderson, eat your heart out.

Tags: picks from planet venus, playlist

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