Alisha's Attic was a bizarre attempt by producer Dave Stewart to cash-in on the fleeting success of British trash-pop pheonomenons Shampoo. Stewart discovered the sister act of Shellie and Karen when the Barking-based duo sent him a demo tape they recorded at home. The duo was clearly influenced by Kate Bush and Prince, and Stewart immediately secured the band a contract with Mercury Records, and produced their debut album. The first single, "I Am I Feel," was released to positive reviews in the summer of 1996, and it showcased how Alisha's Attic — who were named after an imaginary friend the sister's had created, one that represented both their devilish and angelic sides — had been revamped as quirky, pseudo-intelligent version of the bratty, helium-voiced dance-pop of Shampoo. That reworking was especially evident on the full-length, Alisha Rules the World, which was released in November of 1996 to decidedly mixed reviews. By the time the record was released, the market for female pop acts had become overrun by the Spice Girls, and Alisha Rules the World disappeared from the charts. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine
All About Eve arose out of Britain's '80s goth rock scene with a unique, folk-rock-influenced take on the style. Former journalist and Gene Loves Jezebel bassist Julianne Regan was encouraged by members of the Mission U.K. to form her own band after singing background vocals on some of their material. She assembled former Aemotti Crii members Tim Bricheno (guitar) and Andy Cousin (bass), plus drummer Mark Price, and sprinkled her songs with references to hippiedom and white-magic mysticism. Their self-titled debut sold well in the U.K. in 1988 and produced the hit "Martha's Harbour." Following the release and tour of their difficult second record Scarlet and Other Stories, Bricheno left the group and subsequently joined Sisters of Mercy. The band regrouped, with the Church mainstay Marty Willson-Piper taking over on guitar. The resulting record, Touched by Jesus, was met with a lukewarm reception, and the band decided on a stylistic change for their next LP. 1994's Ultraviolet got lost in the shuffle, and problems with how the record company percieved the band added to an already stressful situation. A short time later, All About Eve called it a day, with Julianne Regan going on to form Mice, work with Bernard Bulter, start the atmospheric Jules et Jim project, and a regular day job. When it seemed that the band would never be heard from again, old friends the Mission decided to start touring again, and asked Regan if she was interested in opening. This was enough to not only get the band back together but to start touring on their own. After the tour with the Mission, All About Eve embarked on what turned out to be two years worth of acoustic gigs, and in 2000 released the first collection of unplugged highlights, entitled Fairy Light Nights. Fairy Light Nights, Vol. 2 and more acoustic shows appeared in 2001. — Chris True & Steve Huey
Donna Allen launched her vocal career in the early '80s. The Floridian joined the band Hi-Octane and toured with them a year before leaving for the group Trama. She then formed Donna Allen & company and performed in the Tampa area. Lou Pace produced her 1986 debut LP Perfect Timing, which included the single "Serious" that earned Allen a number five R&B hit, plus the followup "Satisfied," which reached number 14, and a duet with Howard Hewitt on "Perfect Timing." Her 1987 LP Heaven on Earth had a remake of Maze's "Joy and Pain" that did well on the international circuit. Allen was also a cheerleader for the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers at one time. — Ron Wynn
One of the first wave of female country stars, Rosalie Allen recorded several hits during the late '40s as a singing cowgirl and yodeler in the Patsy Montana tradition. Born Julie Marlene Bedra on June 27, 1924, she grew up in a large, poor Pennsylvania family. Inspired by the singing cowboys of the '30s, she taught herself to sing and play guitar, and began working on the radio in Wilkes-Barre, PA. She moved to New York in the early '40s, and sang with the Swing Billies and also with Zeke Manners, where she met her future duet partner Elton Britt. Allen's first hit came in 1946 with RCA Victor; the update of Patsy Montana's "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart" hit number five and was later trumped on the Country charts by its B-side "Guitar Polka (Old Monterey)," which reached number three. During the late '40s, Rosalie Allen became quite famous in New York as a major promoter of country music. She hosted a TV show in New York as well as the WOV radio program Prairie Stars, and her writing appeared in columns for National Jamboree and Country Sound Roundup. Her Rosalie Allen Hillbilly Music Center in New York was the first specifically country record store in the nation.
Allen's final two chart hits paired her with Elton Britt, the yodeler famous in the mid-'40s for "There's a Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere." Their first single, "Beyond the Sunset," hit number seven in 1950; it was followed closely by the number-three "Quicksilver." The duo also recorded an album for Waldorf Records in the mid-'50s — now released as Starring Elton Britt and Rosalie Allen on the Grand Award label. Also, two albums of Allen's solo recordings are available as German imports. — John Bush
One of the more impressive jazz singers to emerge in the 1990s, Karrin Allyson is a great scat singer but also highly expressive on ballads. She grew up in Omaha, NE, and the San Francisco Bay Area and graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1987. After performing regularly at a Minneapolis club, Alyson moved to Kansas City which has been her home base ever since. All of Karrin Allyson's Concord recordings are highly recommended and she has the potential to be an important pacesetter for decades to come. — Scott Yanow
Mexican singer/composer/multi-instrumentalist Alquimia combines her classical training in voice, piano and composition with electronic, rock, pop and avant-garde musical elements. She records and resides in London and Mexico City, and has performed at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, as well as at Holland's Alpha Centauri and Thunderclaps Festivals. — Heather Phares
With its northern Ireland-style twin fiddling and accordion melodies accented by acoustic guitar and bouzouki, Altan has grown into one of the top traditional bands in Ireland. The Boston Globe called them, "one of the hottest groups in the Celtic realm these days", while, The Wall Street Journal referred to them as "the preeminent Irish band in the world today." The New York Times praised them for their "clarity and coordination of its textures." The inspiration for Altan was sparked when Donegal-born fiddler and vocalist Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh met Belfast-born flute player Frankie Kennedy. Ni Mhaonaigh had learned the traditional style of fiddling from her father, Francie, who had learned it from his mother, Roise. Influential Irish fiddler Dinny McLaughlin, who frequented her childhood home, added to her knowledge of the instrument. Kennedy, who studied flute as a youngster, was extremely interested in Irish music and made several trips to Ireland during school vacations. Meeting during an informal jam sessions, Ni Mhaonaigh and Kennedy began to play together at every opportunity. Although they both took jobs as trainee teachers at St. Patrick's College in Dublin, music remained their shared passion. In 1979, the two musicians made their recording debut as accompanists for Gaelic singer Albert Fry on his self-titled debut album. Two years later, Ni Mhaonaigh and Kennedy graduated from college and were married. Together with bouzouki player Donal O'Hanlan and Mairead's brother, Gearoid O'Maoinaigh, who played guitar, the Ni Maoinaigh and Kennedy formed a band, Ragaime. Although they recorded for RTE, the group disbanded by the time that Gael-Linn released Ni Maoinaigh and Kennedy's debut album, Ceol Adualigh in ...
AMG EXPERT REVIEW: Although Myriam Alterr can play fine piano, this release is most notable for the many original lyrical melodies she contributed. Other than the closing blues "Flues" (which gives the musicians an opportunity to blow freely), each of the pieces (Alter wrote all ten songs) has intriguing chord changes, themes that are often quite memorable and a purpose. In fact, Alter would be well advised to team up with a lyricist in the future, for one could easily imagine some of these melodies being sung and potentially becoming standards. The Dutch musicians (all obscure in the U.S.) are quite talented. Both trumpeter Gino Lattuca and altoist Ben Sluijs display appealing tones and strong improvising styles while being careful to stick to the original moods of the themes. Also joined by bassist Stefan Lievestro and drummer Jan de Haas, the leader mostly keeps her piano solos brief, and her music ("Flues" is the longest at 6:18) is given concise interpretations. Myriam Alter has great potential. Recommended. — Scott Yanow
With just one album, Vanessa Amorosi has become Australia's third most successful female after Kylie Minogue and Tina Arena. Amorosi was born in Melbourne to parents who were both professional singer/dancers working in the Australasian theatre restaurant cabaret circuit. She was surrounded by music and singing and it had a profound impact on her life. At the age of four, Amarosi and her younger sisters were taking tap, jazz, and classical ballet classes at a dance school run by their uncle. The big turning point came when, at 14 years of age, Vanessa Amorosi took a part-time job singing in a Russian restaurant. Her other performances had been part of regular dance class type activities in which all the all kids engaged in those activities partake in. The Russian restaurant job was different. Amarosi was in the spotlight on her own and it was there the powerfully voiced teenager was spotted by TV producer Jack Strom. Strom had recently formed a management company with '70s recording star Mark Holden.
Vanessa Amorosi took some convincing to throw her lot in with Strom and Holden. She'd already had numerous people promise to make her a star and seen nothing happen. But eventually they did convince her, signed her to a management contract, and set about working towards her first record. After rejections from all the major record companies, a deal was found with BMG distributed independent Transistor Records. Amorosi was their first Australian signing. In May, 1999, she flew to London to record several tracks, including her debut single with producer Steve Mac, known for his work with pop acts Boyzone and Five and, subsequently, Westlife.
The first single "Have a Look" took Amorosi into Australia's national Top 20. The second single, the dance-pop "Absolutely Everybody" reached number three and spent 27 weeks in the Top 40, one of the longest runs of all time for an Australian single. The album The Power was the first time an Australian female reached number one on the national album chart with her first album. In all, her album generated four major hits and interest in her recordings throughout Europe, In September, 2000, Vanessa Amorosi was the only artist to feature in both the opening and the closing ceremonies of the Sydney Olympics. — Ed Nimmervoll
Boston singer/songwriter Merrie Amsterburg began her musical career as the singer and guitarist for the late-'80s early-'90s band the Natives, who were nearly signed by KISS' Gene Simmons, and recorded tracks with Blondie producer Richard Gottehrer. Unfortunately, both projects were unsuccessful — Simmons' label wasn't ready in time to offer the band a good distribution deal, and the Gottehrer sessions were never released; soon after, the band broke up. Amsterburg's frustrated career as a rock & roller led her to a more fulfilling one as a singer/songwriter; she expanded her style to include folk, jazz, and world music elements, as well as more personal lyrics. Her 1996 solo debut Season of Rain came out on Q-Division records, the namesake label of the studio where it was recorded, and where other Boston artists like Aimee Mann and Jennifer Trynin have laid tracks. 1999 saw the album's re-release on Zoe/Rounder Records, as well as the release of an EP, A World of Our Own Making. Little Steps followed in mid-2000. — Heather Phares
Marian Anderson is an opera singer. A contralto, she sang both opera and Negro spirituals, beginning her concert career in 1924 and at first concentrating on Europe. In 1939, she became a cause celebre of the civil rights movement when she was banned by the Daughters of the American Revolution from singing in Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. The First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, resigned from the DAR in protest and arranged for Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial instead. Anderson made her debut with The Metropolitan Opera Company in 1955 and became a permenant member of the company. — William Ruhlmann
Tennessee native Jessica Andrews was born into a musical family, and found singing was her niche in a fourth-grade talent show. Her version of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" won first prize and set her on a path that took her to local fairs and carnivals — anywhere she could sing. Word of mouth about Andrews' talents spread, and soon friends of Nashville producer Byron Gallimore insisted he listen to her. Intrigued by her range and tonal control, he and Andrews went into the studio and began choosing songs to record. Gallimore also invited DreamWorks Nashville label representatives to a showcase Andrews performed at, where she was offered a contract immediately. Her debut release for the label, Heart Shaped World, came out in 1999. Who I Am followed two years later. — Heather Phares
AMG EXPERT REVIEW: Angelica is an intriguing blend of opera and rock spearheaded by songwriter/composer Clif Magness and lyricist Carole Bayer Sager. The project features four sopranos — Julia Bonilla, Anita DeSimone, Sewell Griffith and Rebecca Semrau — who are supported by a wide array of professional studio musicians, including bassist Nathan East, pianist David Foster, the Boys Choir of Harlem and guitarists Steve Vai, Eric Johnson and Dweezil Zappa. Essentially, the album is opera songs performed with rock spirit — big beats, big chords, big dynamics and pure intensity. Magness has rearranged selections from Verdi's Carmen, Mozart's The Magic Flute, Puccini's Madame Butterfly and Gianni Chicchi, and Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, as well as several selections from Schubert, Gounod and Franck, for a rock band, keeping the actual arrangements and feeling of the original composition. Occasionally it works, occasionally it doesn't, but Angelica is never less than intriguing, and adventurous listeners — particularly fans of prog-rock — might want to give it a try. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Lead singer Anna Paidoussi sounds like The Cowboy Junkies' Margo Timmins on speed. Their hit "I'd Rather Set Myself on Fire" illustrates their hybrid sound — traditional Greek harmonies and instrumental work, set against a modern rock production. This is challenging and unusual music. — Hank Davis
Today Tina Arena is Australia's most successful female recording artist. She spent her childhood in the late 70s on national Australian television on the weekly feel-good Young Talent Time show, where a regular troupe of children sang the hits of the day and yesterday until each child reached 'retirement' age and was replaced with another bright, but younger singer. Many of those children struggled personally and professionally once they were replaced. A few, after battling to re-establish themselves. have gone on to meaningful careers in entertainment. Even as a tiny girl known for her big voice and stage presence Tina Arena dropped from sight for several years following her Young Talent Time tenure, years she spent trying to get up a recording career, working the club circuit alone or in bands, or appearing in musicals. In 1990 at the age of 21 she was reinvented as a raunchy disco diva with a national #2 single, "I Need Your Body". It gave her a successful album and more hits, but was a momentary apparition, because this was never a music style or an image Tina herself was comfortable with. Another "silent" period followed during which she appeared in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, and spent some time living in Los Angeles.
Determined to succeed, in 1994 she landed a new Sony recording contract on her own terms, lauching her new career with the powerful soul ballad "Chains", which became a hit world-wide. Her David Tyler produced album Don't Ask was Australia's biggest selling album of 1995, and the biggest selling album by any Australian female. Don't Ask sold two million copies globally. She followed with the Australian triple platinum In Deep, produced by Foreigner's Mick Jones. 1999 saw Tina with a massive hit in France, and the break-up of her marriage and business relationship with manager Ralph Carr. — Ed. Nimmervoll
Jann Arden was born Jann Arden Richards in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Two of her biggest musical influences during her childhood were John Denver and Karen Carpenter. Arden didn't have abundant dreams of stardom back then, but she did love music and began writing her own songs when she was only 13. At 17 she recorded a debut single, "Never Love a Sailor," released in 1980 under the name Jann Richards. After the single, she spent years performing at numerous clubs and festivals. As a singer, she joined bands like Factor Four and Hip Hugger, perfecting her skills over time.
It took Arden 13 long, hard years to move from that first independent effort to a full-length release, Time for Mercy, on the A&M Records label. A couple of the singles from the debut album became hits and helped Arden claim some awards like Best Video and Best Solo Performer and the illustrious Juno award. Her music is often sad and emotional, sometimes humorous, but it always touches places with fans that only truth can reach.
In 1994, Arden completed a sophomore offering, Living Under June, proving she was no fleeting success. The album Happy? followed in 1997 and then Blood Red Cherry in 2000. Some of the tracks from her recordings are "I Just Don't Love You Anymore," "I Would Die for You," "Insensitive," and "It Looks Like Rain." Since that first album hit the market and won positive reviews from so many, Arden's records have sold millions and that number should only continue to climb. — Charlotte Dillon
Folk-pop-styled CCM performer Carolyn Arends first attracted attention for her songwriting skills, penning hits for the likes of Carman, Susan Ashton and Michael James, for whom she authored the smash "Love Will." As a solo artist, she debuted in 1995 with the LP I Can Hear You, a major pop hit in her native Canada, where she reached the Top Five with the singles "Seize the Day," "This Is the Stuff" and the title track; the record also was successful on American Christian stations and earned extensive airplay within the adult alternative format. Nominated for Best New Artist at the 1996 Dove Awards, Arends returned in 1997 with Feel Free, which launched the CHR chart-topper "New Year's Day." The follow-up, 1999's This Much I Understand, was Arends' most personal album, reflecting on the birth of her son and the death of close friend Rich Mullins. 2000 saw the release of Seize the Day and Other Stories, a part greatest-hits, part live album also featuring two new songs. — Jason Ankeny
Virginia Astley is more widely known for the people she's played with than her own records. A classically trained British pianist and flutist who also happens to be Pete Townshend's sister-in-law, she contributed piano to Townshend's "Slit Skirts," and has played sessions for Siouxsie & the Banshees. Her late-'70s band, the Ravishing Beauties, also included future Dream Academy singer Kate St. John and Nicky Holland, who would work with Tears for Fears and Ryuichi Sakamoto. Astley's sparse body of work combines ambient, even experimental textures and song structures with her pretty soprano vocals. Producing three albums (only the last of which was released in the U.S.) and a handful of single and EP tracks, she remains virtually unknown to American audiences. Her records are recommended to listeners looking for intriguing ambient British pop who find the Cocteau Twins and the 4AD stable too wimpy and pretentious. — Richie Unterberger
AMG EXPERT REVIEW: Dérives is an early work but already marks Rene Aubry's predilection for dance and theatrical work, in this case for a puppeteer, Philippe Genty (which is why the cover images look so eerie). Dérives translates to "adrift," and this is a very pleasant collection of quietly drifting pieces, mostly for keyboards with occasional guitar, banjo, and harmonica added for effect. Aubry's typical pattern is to set up a contrapuntal rhythmic pattern with simulated strings, then to put a leading melodic figure with piano. There are two songs in this collection, one completely in French and sung by Aubry, and the other in both French and English, sung by Katy Deville. Aubry's harmonic structures continue the pattern established in his other works, gentle progressions in mostly minor keys. The rhythmic interest comes from the counterpoint, and there is sparing use of percussion. — Caleb Deupree
Anne Auffret is a singer and harp player with an angelic voice who specializes in religious music and hymns. Yann-Fanch Kemener is one of the most important Breton singers of the current generation. It was largely through his influence that many younger people became interested in Breton songs. His name is sometimes spelled Jean-Francois Quemener. — Steve Winick
The Avengers were a San Francisco-based hardcore punk rock group formed in 1977, featuring Penelope Housten (vocals), Greg Westermark (guitar), Johnathan Postal (bass), and Danny Furious (drums). They had broken up by the time their only full-length album was released in 1983; the retrospective Died for Your Sins followed in 1999. — William Ruhlmann
When she arrived in her homeland, in 1961, for the first time in sixteen years, Ethiopia-born and Washington, D.C.-based songstress Aster Aweke was greeted by thousands of loyal followers awaiting her plane. During the month-long tour that followed, Aweke performed before more than 80,000 people and showed that she remains one of Ethiopia's best loved performers. Aweke has been equally successful throughout the world. Her second album, "Kabu", spent four weeks in the top position on the "CMJ New Music Charts" and was in the top ten of "Billboard's World Music Charts" for ten weeks in 1990.
A native of Gandor, a small town near Lake Tara, Aweke was raised in the capital city of Addis Ababa. The daughter of senior civil servant in the Imperial government, Aweke was determined, by the age of thirteen, to become a musician. By her late teens, she was singing in Addis Ababa clubs and hotels with such bands as the Continental Band, Hotel D'Afrique Band, Shebele Band and the Ibex Band (before they became the intrnationally-known Roha Band). Launching a solo career, Aweke was encouraged by musical entrepeneur, Ali Tango, who financed and released five cassettes and two singles of hre music.
By 1981, Aweke had become disillusioned by the country's oppressive political climate and relocated to the United States. Temporarily setting in the Bay Area of California with plans to pursue an education, Aweke continued on to Washington, D.C., the site of the largest Ethiopian population in the U.S., within two years. After building a following with her performances in local Ethiopian restaurants, Aweke toured the U.S. and Europe in 1985. — Craig Harris
A popular singer when she was still a young teenager, Alice Babs has had a long and varied career. She made her recording debut in 1939 at the age of 15 and, although her yodelling made her initially popular and the novelty "Swing It, Mr. Teacher" was her first hit, Babs even at the start had a highly appealing voice and a lightly swinging style. She mostly recorded in jazz and swing-oriented settings throughout the years of World War II. Babs remained active throughout the 1950s and '60s in Europe, singing everything from jazz (recording with Duke Ellington in 1963 and performing the classic "Heaven" at his second spiritual concert) and pop to a bit of classical music. By the late '70s Alice Babs had become less active but into the mid-'90s she has occasionally performed on special occasions. Although her important first set with Duke Ellington (on Reprise) remains out of print, a Phontastic CD (Swing It!) does a fine job of summing up her first 15 years on records. — Scott Yanow
With a splendid voice and equally impressive interpretive gifts, Susana Baca is a primary exponent of the Afro-Peruvian musical tradition. Baca came to world attention in 1995, when her rendition of "Maria Lando," a heartbreaking ballad of third-world worker oppression, was included on David Byrne's The Soul of Black Peru compilation. Since then she has released an eponymously titled solo album on Byrne's Luaka Bop label, and another disc, Del Fuego y del Agua, for Tonga Productions. Baca is particularly interested in reinterpreting old Afro-Peruvian melodies. At her best, Baca conveys an unforgettable, haunting melancholy, the lament of a people separated from their homeland by a continent and an ocean. Baca was born in the black coastal barrio of Chorrillos, outside Lima, where descendents of slaves have lived since the days of the Spanish empire. Her family was interested in music; her father played the guitar, while her mother was a dancer, and she grew up listening to Cuban musicians like Perez Prado and Beny More. Baca's singing first came to public attention when she was a student. She formed an experimental group combining poetry and song, and started performing after receiving grants from Peru's Institute of Modern Art and the National Institute of Peruvian Culture. She attracted the attention of the composer and singer Chabuca Granda, who became her mentor. Granda encouraged Baca to record, but a 1983 record deal fell apart upon Granda's death. Baca then turned her attention to researching the Afro-Peruvian tradition. With her husband she founded the Instituto Negrocontinuo (Black Continuum) in Lima, which is dedicated to preserving Afro-Peruvian culture. Since the Byrne compilation, she has toured the United States several times. — Spencer Harrington
The Australian pop group Bachelor Girl formed in 1992 when songwriter/producer/keyboardist/vocalist James Roche met vocalist Tania Emilia Doko. Roche was creating a demo tape of a song he wrote for another group, Girlfriend. When his original singer canceled, he recruited Doko, which sparked a collaboration. The duo began writing and recording in search of a record deal; after Sony rejected them, Bachelor Girl found a home with Gotham Records in 1997. The following year saw the release of several singles and a debut album, Waiting For The Day, which was released as Breaking Through From Down Under on Arista Records in the US. Prior to Bachelor Girl, Roche wrote music for television and worked with artists like Glenn Frey, Christopher Cross and Tommy Emmanuel as a keyboardist and producer. — Heather Phares
An early jazz singer with a sweet voice that belied her plump physique, Mildred Bailey balanced a good deal of popular success with a hot jazz-slanted career that saw her billed as Mrs. Swing (her husband, Red Norvo, was Mr. Swing). Born Mildred Rinker in Washington state in 1907, Bailey began performing at an early age, playing piano and singing in movie theaters during the early '20s. By 1925, she was the headlining act at a club in Hollywood, doing a mixture of pop, early jazz tunes, and vaudeville standards. Influenced by Ethel Waters, Bessie Smith and Connie Boswell, she developed a soft, swinging delivery that pleased all kinds of nightclub audiences in the area. After sending a demonstration disc in to Paul Whiteman in 1929, she gained a spot with one of the most popular dance orchestras of the day. The added exposure with Whiteman soon gave Bailey her own radio program. She had already debuted on a recording date with guitarist Eddie Lang in 1929, but in 1932 she gained fame by recording what became her signature song "Rockin' Chair" — written especially for her by Hoagie Carmichael — with a Whiteman small group. Recording for Vocalion during the 1930s, Bailey often utilized her husband, xylophonist Red Norvo. She also appeared on his recordings of the late '30s, and the arrangements of Eddie Sauter proved a perfect accompaniment to her vocals.
Though she and Norvo later divorced, Bailey continued to perform and record during the 1940s. She appeared on Benny Goodman's Camel Caravan radio program, and gained her own series again during the mid-'40s. Hampered by health problems during the late '40s, she spent time in the hospital suffering from diabetes and died of a heart attack in 1951. — John Bush
Toledo, OH's Jessica Bailiff began recording in 1995 and sent a demo to Kranky Records at the suggestion of Low's Alan Sparhawk. Less than a year later, Bailiff's excellent debut appeared on the racks, bearing the Kranky logo. The largely slow-tempo material of Even in Silence, full of blurry effects and buried vocals, earned positive shoegaze and slowcore comparisons. Hour of the Trace followed a year later, which wasn't too far removed from the sound of her debut. — Andy Kellman
A native of Melbourne, Merril Bainbridge became an Australian phenomenon with only her first single, "Mouth." It hit the top of the charts — staying there for over a month — and spawned a double-platinum album, The Garden. Bainbridge was born in the late '60s, and began singing in cover bands as a teenager. She moved to backup singing after several years, offering her voice in return for studio time with the man who later became her producer, Siew. Signed to the Australian Gotham label, Bainbridge spent over a year recording her debut album and released it in late 1994. Though it initially sank, repeated play of the single "Mouth" finally caught on with radio listeners, and it ascended to number one by early 1995. Bainbridge signed to the Universal label in America by 1996, and released The Garden to U.S. audiences in September. It barely missed the charts. Between the Days followed in 1998. — John Bush
Anita Baker's strong, sensual alto helped her break down the doors in the middle of the '80s. More than any other singer, she defined quiet storm — smooth, romantic soul for adults. Baker's music is sophisticated without being cold, romantic without being saccharine; besides soul, her singing has roots in jazz and classic pop, bringing a refined romanticism to her music. Although her 1983 debut, The Songstress, disappeared upon its release, her 1986 album, Rapture, was a modern classic that ushered in a new era of urban contemporary and modern pop singing. None of her following records were quite as good, but her singing remains impressive on each album and she was one of the most popular urban/adult contemporary singers of the '80s and '90s. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Born into poverty in St. Louis, dancer and singer Josephine Baker progressed from vaudeville to New York theater to the Parisian cabaret scene and became the toast of Europe before the age of 21. Though her later career wasn't quite able to handle such an early peak, Baker spent much of her life working tirelessly against prejudice, during World War II in Europe and the civil-rights era in America. She's still one of the most famous expatriates in American history, perfectly epitomizing the hedonistic abandon of the Jazz Age in Paris.
Born Freda Carson on June 3, 1906, Baker spent a hardscrabble childhood in the slums of St. Louis. After a successful audition at a local vaudeville theater, she left home at the age of 13, waitressing most of the time and working on the stage whenever she could get there. By 1920, she was married and divorced and married again — the second time to Willie Baker, from whom she took the name she used on stage. Baker finally caught her big break one year later while dancing in the chorus for Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake's all-black revue Shuffle Along. A frenetic dancer and relentless onstage clown, she quickly attracted notice and was tapped for a bigger part in another Sissle/Blake production, 1924's Chocolate Dandies. The show made her a star in New York and she became big in Harlem as well with performances at the Cotton Club and the Plantation Club, among others. In 1925, she moved to Paris with the American production La Revue Nègre. Baker's exotic dancing, uninhibited sexuality, and negligible attire — which included a skirt of feathers — suited the continent much more than America, and she became an overnight sensation. ...
Pianist, singer and songwriter Marcia Ball is a living example of how east Texas blues meets southwest Louisiana swamp rock. Ball was born March 20, 1949, in Orange, TX, but grew up across the border in Vinton, LA. That town is squarely in the heart of "the Texas triangle," an area that includes portions of both states and that has produced some of our country's greatest blues talents: Janis Joplin, Johnny and Edgar Winter, Queen Ida Guillory, Lonnie Brooks, Zachary Richard, Clifton Chenier and Kenny Neal, to name a few. Ball's earliest awareness of blues came over the radio, where she heard people like Irma Thomas, Professor Longhair and Etta James, all of whom she now credits as influences. She began playing piano at age five, learning from her grandmother and aunt and also taking formal lessons from a teacher.
Ball entered Louisiana State University in the late '60s as an English major. In college, she played in a psychedelic rock & roll band, Gum. In 1970, Ball and her first husband were headed west in their car to San Francisco, but the car needed repairs in Austin, where they had stopped off to visit one of their former bandmates. After hearing, seeing and tasting some of the music, sights and food in Austin, the two decided to stay there. Ball has been based in Austin since then.
The most successful British girl-group in pop history, Bananarama formed in London in late 1981. Drawing equal inspiration for their name from the children's television program The Banana Splits and the Roxy Music song "Pyjamarama," the trio comprised lifelong friends Keren Woodward and Sarah Dallin along with Siobhan Fahey, whom Dallin befriended at the London College of Fashion. After getting their start singing at friends' parties and at nightclubs (where they performed accompanied by backing tapes — none of the women played their own instruments), they came to the attention of ex-Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook, who produced Bananarama's first single, a cover of Swahili Black Blood's "Aie A Mwana."
After the group backed Fun Boy Three on the single "It Ain't What You Do, It's the Way You Do It," the Three returned the favor for 1982's "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin'," a cover of the 1965 Velvelettes song that was the first of Bananarama's 26 U.K. chart smashes. While their initial hits, including "Shy Boy," "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" and "Cruel Summer" (their first U.S. smash) were roundly dismissed as fluffy pop fare, the success of 1984's rape-themed release "Robert DeNiro's Waiting" convinced the group to tackle more serious topics; however, the follow-up single, "Rough Justice" — a song protesting political tensions in Northern Ireland — bombed, and the trio's career ...
Originally Colours, the Supersonic Bangs and the Bangs, the all singing/all performing four-woman Bangles formed in 1981 and sprung from the LA Paisley Underground scene. Later they traded their garage band roots for a slick, heavily-produced pop sound that turned them into one of the most successful chart groups of either gender during the '80s.
In the beginning, the group played original, 60's-based guitar-rock, and were fond of covering Big Star, the Merry Go Round and Love. Sisters Debbi and Vicki Peterson on drums and bass respectively and singer/guitarist Susanna Hoffs started the group when the Peterson's responded to a want-ad placed by Hoffs; later they added Annette Zilinskas on bass.
The scruffy girl-group self-released the single "Getting Out of Hand," which sounded like a lost song by the Mamas and the Papas and followed it with a loose, four-song pop EP on IRS before getting signed to Columbia. All Over The Place was produced by David Kahne and released in 1984, once the band had been given an all-over clean-up. By that time Zilinskas had left the fold to join Blood on the Saddle and former Runaway Michael Steele was added to the line-up. For the second album, 1985's Different Light, the band were aided by ...
Barbara hit the French charts in 1996 with her self-titled LP, recorded for Mercury. Femme Piano followed in 1999. — John Bush
Patricia Barber is a difficult performer to easily categorize. A singer with an unusual voice and a talented jazz pianist, Barber has sought to expand the repertoire that singers have today by not only taking obscurities from the pop world but writing her own material. A fixture at Chicago's Gold Star Sardine Bar since 1984 (switching in more recent years to the Green Mill), Barber is the daughter of a saxophonist who played with Glenn Miller (Floyd Barber). She studied classical piano, played saxophone in her high-school band and mostly stuck to classical while at the University of Iowa before switching permanently to jazz. She worked locally in Iowa, moved back to Chicago and formed a regular trio. Beginning in 1989 Barber started appearing regularly at the North Sea Jazz Festival. Thus far she has recorded for her own Floyd label (1989's Split), Antilles (1992's A Distortion Of Love) and more recently for Premonition, including 1994's much-acclaimed Cafe Blue and 1998's Modern Cool. Two years later Night Club was released. — Scott Yanow
The traditional folk songs and ballads of Ireland were preserved by the 1950s recordings of Margaret Barry. Accompanying her powerful, but untrained, vocals with rustic banjo picking, Barry was a musical influence for such trad-rock groups as Fairport Convention, Pentangle and Steeleye Span. Her recording of "I Sang Through The Fair", inspired numerous interpretations and transformed the song into a classic of Celtic music. Starting her career as a street busker in Dublin, Barry attracted international attention when she was recorded in 1953 by folklorist Alan Lomax. She subsequently moved to London where she worked for Lomax as a housekeeper and cook. For many years, Barry was accompanied by Michael Gorman, a folk musicians she had met while performing on a BBC television program of traditional music hosted by Lomax in 1953. In addition to her repertoire of Irish songs, Barry performed many English art songs and ballads. — Craig Harris
Although she doesn't tour nearly as much as she probably could, Austin-based vocalist Lou Ann Barton is one of the finest purveyors of raw, unadulterated roadhouse blues from the female gender that you'll ever hear. Like Delbert McClinton, she can belt out a lyric so that she can be heard over a two-guitar band with horns. Born February 17, 1954, in Fort Worth, she's a veteran of thousands of dance hall and club shows all over Texas. Barton moved to Austin in the 1970s and later performed with the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble.
Although she has a few great recordings out, notably Old Enough (1982, Asylum Records), produced by Jerry Wexler and Glenn Frey, Barton has to be seen live to be fully appreciated. She belts out her lyrics in a twangy voice so full of Texas that you can smell the barbecue sauce. She swaggers confidently about the stage, casually tossing her cigarette to the floor as the band kicks in on its first number. The grace, poise and confidence she projects on stage is part of a long tradition for women blues singers. The blues world still needs more good female blues singers like Barton, to help to broaden the appeal of the music to diverse audiences and to further its evolution.
Barton has several other excellent albums out on the Austin-based Antone's Records, Read My Lips (1989) and her cooperative effort with fellow Texas blues women Marcia Ball and Angela Strehli, Dreams Come True (1990). Old Enough was reissued on compact disc in 1992 on the Antone's label. The only criticism one could level at Barton — and it may be unfair because of business complications — is that she hasn't recorded much. Here's hoping that this premier interpreter of Texas roadhouse blues will be well recorded through the rest of the 1990s. — Richard Skelly
Vocalist Basia Trzetrzelewska spent a couple of years in the pop band Matt Bianco, an offshoot of Blue Rondo à la Turk, before she launched a solo career in 1987. With the musical assistance of Matt Bianco's Danny White, Basia developed a subtle cocktail jazz-pop which was first showcased on her 1987 debut album, Time and Tide. Supported by the singles "New Day for You" and "Time and Tide," the record became a hit in Europe and America, where the album went platinum. Her second record, 1990's London Warsaw New York, was just as successful, but her third album, 1994's Sweetest Illusion, failed to find an audience. Clear Horizon: The Best of Basia followed in 1998. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Songwriter, electric guitarist, and vocalist Margaret Becker has had no less than 14 superb number one radio hits and three distinguished Dove Awards, and has been nominated for a Grammy four times during her extraordinary Christian rock career — and she's nowhere near done. Born to German/Irish parents, Becker was raised in Long Island, NY. When she began performing, she did the coffeehouse circuit, playing where and when she could. In between she studied journalism, taught music, took opera lessons, and did odd jobs, even working as a department store bill collector for years, just to pay the rent and keep food on the table.
In 1985, only weeks after moving to Nashville so she could devote all of her energy to her music, Becker was signed by the Sparrow Records label, but as a songwriter, not a singer. Within a year, though, she had the recording contract that she had prayed about.
In 1986, Becker, with her husky voice and strong stage presence, began her climb up the stardom ladder when she combined her talents with those of Steve Camp on the album One on One. She also toured with the Rick Cua Band, supplying background vocals.
Becker finally saw the release of her own debut album in 1987, Never for Nothing. From that first album came her first hit single, "Fight for God." Her next album, The Reckoning, brought her two more hits, "Light in the Darkness" and "Find Me." Some of her other hits singles are "The Hunger Stays," "You Remain Unchanged," "Clay and Water," and "All I Ever Wanted." Becker followed ...
New Jersey-native Wendy Beckerman came to the Greenwich Village songwriters community in 1989 and has gone on to become a regular performer on the Northeast Coffeehouse circuit. — Richard Meyer
The atmospheric, melancholy, somewhat medieval soundscapes of Bel Canto (Italian for "beautiful song") mix an essentially synth-based, chamber-rock sound with a wide range of orchestral and folk instruments and have been compared to the Cocteau Twins. The group hails from Norway and consists of ethereal vocalist Anneli Marian Drecker, plus Nils Johansen and Geir Jenssen. The group claims to draw its inspiration from powerful energy fields, including those of the female and the earth's gravitational pull; additionally, their compositions sometimes draw on world music and the ambient experiments of Brian Eno. Bel Canto released its first album, White-Out Conditions, in 1987. After 1989's Birds of Passage, they recorded 1992's Shimmering, Warm and Bright and 1996's Magic Box. — Steve Huey
Talented singer and actress Ana Belén was born in Madrid, Spain. As a child, Belén used to express herself dancing and singing, showing up at different radio stations and participating in children contests. At the age of 12, Ana Belén recorded her first single, soon being assigned with a role in a movie called Zampo y Yo, with Fernando Rey as its star part. Belén decided to get acting lessons at TEM (Teatro Estudio Madrileño), debuting with a role in Cervante's Numancia and getting a main role for the first time in the 1970's movie Españolas en Paris. In 1973, Belén fell in love with singer Victor Manuel and the couple got married that same year. By that time, Juan Carlos Calderón produced her first album. Ana Belén's breakthrough came with the release of 1982's Ana en Rio, recorded along with Brazilian musicians. That album included her smash hit "Balancé." In March 1986, the artist was distinguished by the French government for her contribution to the popular culture. In 1991, Belén extended her career to filmmaking, starting with the acclaimed movie Cómo Ser Mujer y No Morir en el Intento, being awarded in 1995 by the Spanish Cinematographic Academy with a gold medal. The following year, Ana Belén toured all over Spain along with Miguel Rios, Joan Manuel Serrat, and Victor Manuel. In 1997, Mírame was released. — Drago Bonacich
Madeline Bell was born July 23, 1942 in Newark, NJ and was strongly influenced by her Grandmother, who had been a singer. Bell was raised by her grandmother after her parents divorced. Showing a bent toward creative arts, Bell first took piano lessons at 50 cents a pop, but couldn't master the complexities of the keyboard. Next, Grandma paid for dancing lessons and discovered Madeline would never be confused with Ginger Rogers or Josephine Baker, so the lessons stopped. By the fifth grade, Bell found her calling, singing, and she regularly appeared in school shows. At age 11 she pantomimed "Santa Baby, " a tune popularized by Eartha Kitt. Bell regularly attended church and sang in the choir. She later joined a group called Four Jacks & A Jill, who sung on street corners. Madeline was the Jill. At 16 she joined the Glovertones, a gospel group, who sung gospel on weekends, often traveling hundreds of miles, in an old dilapidated station wagon, to gigs that paid $5.00 a person. The beater often broke down and many times Madeline showed up for work (in a supermarket as a meat wrapper) Monday morning both frustrated and dead tired. Luckily, she had an understanding boss, and besides, she could wrap 75 chickens in an hour, which easily made her the fastest chicken wrapper in the house. Her productivity was helped by the R&B music coming from the radio her boss graciously let her play while working. Her first big break occurred when she met Alex Bradford around 1961 and was invited to join his group after she successfully passed an audition. She stayed with Bradford for two years, criss-crossing the United States, playing in too ...
Scottish soul-rock singer Maggie Bell first gained prominence singing with Stone The Crows, which released its first album in 1970 and broke up in June 1973. Bell went solo with Queen of the Night (featuring the U.S. #97 "After Midnight") in 1974, followed by Suicide Sal, both of which charted in the U.S. Her only U.K. chart singles came with "Hazell" (#37) in 1978 and a duet with B.A. Robertson, "Hold Me" (#11), in 1981. — William Ruhlmann
AMG EXPERT REVIEW: A new effort and a new chief collaborator for Bell on City, in this case multi-instrumentalist Nicholas Young, who mostly plays bass and guitar, but also contributes cellos and, on the concluding track "Come to Me," high piano accordion opposite Bell's own. Recorded in Berlin with a predominantly German backing band and series of guest musicians (the noted exception being fellow expat Bill Direen of the Bilders), City is a rewarding excursion into Bell's confident, striking world of music and lyrics. Bell's singing is still smokily passionate, and her work is here perhaps the most straightforwardly song-oriented yet. Her instrumental work is still more than fine, mostly concentrated on rhythm guitar. Everything is still generally low-key throughout, but instead of the hushed claustrophobia of her earliest work it's more a deceptively gentle rock push with additional touches and instrumentation. Young's abilities on cello help him add an appropriate drama to the proceedings, as on "Mole," where his brisk arrangement is at once energetic and haunting. Of the various guest performers, Uli Glosauer does some notable turns on saxophone for "Eternal Fire" and clarinet for the lengthy, understated chime of "Holding." Direen's addition of guitar and piano accordion on the longer instrumental "Below Normal Zero" adds a lovely, soft element of drone to the piece, further fleshed out by the 'additional sounds' credited to one Harri Ansorge. Other tunes of note include the deceptively simple swing of the title track, one of the few of the album with drums, "Willow," based on a previous performance of Bell's with a cellist as part of a poetry/song cycle, and "Come to Me," where the blend of accordions and bass results in a strange, cabaret-like atmosphere shading Bell's lyric of burnt romance. — Ned Raggett
Regina Belle has emerged as a prolific, consistently engaging vocalist on the urban contemporary scene. Born in New Jersey, Belle's early experience was in gospel, though she was also attracted to R&B during her childhood. She studied trombone, tuba, and steel drums, and at 12 won a school contest singing the Emotions' "Don't Ask My Neighbors." Belle sang in a New Jersey vocal group, and studied opera and jazz in college. New York disc jockey Vaughn Harper introduced her to the Manhattans, and she began working as their opening act. Belle recorded a duet with them, "Where Did We Go Wrong," that was produced by Bobby Womack in 1986. She earned a solo Columbia contract in 1987, and the single "Please Be Mine" earned both praise and a number two R&B hit. A follow-up single, "So Many Tears," also made the R&B Top 20, and the hit "Without You," pairing her with Peabo Bryson, was the only memorable thing about the film Leonard Pt. 6. Her second LP, Stay with Me, secured her success, and she has gone on to earn more acclaim. Releasing Passion in 1993, she returned five years later with Believe in Me. — Ron Wynn
The Icelandic quartet Bellatrix issued their American debut Stranger Tales in 1995. — Jason Ankeny
Following several years in the Throwing Muses, as well as a brief detour in the Breeders in 1990, Tanya Donelly formed her own band, Belly, in 1992. With Belly, Donelly expanded her dreamy pop hooks into more concise, catchy songs, as well as harder-edged rock. The band's 1993 debut, Star, became one of the first beneficiaries of the commercialization of alternative rock; it rode to gold status within its first year of release, as "Feed the Tree" made headway on mainstream pop radio. Despite their strong start, Belly never became genuine stars, and once their 1995 followup King bombed, Donelly disbanded the group. Tanya Donelly (vocals, guitar) broke away from the Throwing Muses in late 1991, forming Belly with fellow ex-Muse Fred Abong (bass), drummer Chris Gorman and his guitarist brother Tom. Donelly hired Pixies producer Gil Norton to work on the group's debut EP, Slow Dust, which confirmed that her dream-pop sensibilities had more hooks than many of her peers. Slow Dust ...
An experienced, sometimes sultry singer, Betty Bennett also studied piano while attending Drake University. She sang with Georgie Auld in 1943, then performed in a number of bands after completing time in the navy in 1945. These included orchestras led by Claude Thornhill, Alvino Rey, Charlie Ventura, Woody Herman, Charlie Barnet and Stan Kenton. She married Andre Previn in the mid-'50s, made two recordings with him directing. She later divorced Previn and married Mundell Lowe. By the late '80s she was touring Europe with Lowe, and was a featured performer for opening night of Wolsey's club in London. — Ron Wynn
Heidi Berry is an American folk-rock singer/songwriter who has lived in England since she was a child. She debuted with the mini-album Firefly in 1987, and performed with This Mortal Coil. Her full-length debut album, Below the Waves, was released by 4AD Records in 1989 and was followed by Love in 1991 and Heidi Berry in 1993. — William Ruhlmann
Cindy Lee Berryhill is a folk-rock singer/songwriter who, although one hates to say it, plays better on paper than on record. Those who bemoan the decline of fresh singer/songwriter talent in the pop and rock mainstream have to admire her obvious respect for classic singer/songwriter values, and her determination to present them in a present-day context that doesn't merely ape the sound of the '60s and '70s. She has the desirable liberal and feminist politics, and is conscious of delivering these with a sense of humor. But her vocals and songwriting, not to mention that sense of humor, are not top-flight enough to make her more than a minor performer, if a periodically engaging one.
Berryhill has always identified herself with the alternative rock scene, playing in a punk rock band before going solo, and supporting such acts as Billy Bragg, the Smithereens, the Proclaimers, and X. Her music usually owes as much to folk as rock, though. The San Diegan's 1987 debut, Who's Gonna Save the World, may be her best simply because it is her most straightforward. Then as now, she was most effective, ironically, at her most basic and serious. Her talking-blues and satirical numbers are not funny or biting enough, and when she adopts a jiving vocal tone, the results are much more awkward than when she just sings.
Berryhill does not lack ambition, moving to New York City in the late 1980s to become part of the non-starting "anti-folk" scene. It wouldn't be accurate to say that this hurt her career, as the movement wasn't wide enough to be perceived as a failure. But it didn't do much for her either, although former Patti Smith guitarist (and Suzanne Vega producer) Lenny Kaye produced her second album.
Moving back to Southern California in the 1990s, she went for a much more unusual sound on 1994's Garage Orchestra, enlisting help from musicians who had worked with the San Diego Symphony and the Harry Partch Ensemble. Again, the combination looks more interesting than it sounds, though the ambition is certainly laudable. 1996's Straight Outta Marysville settles between the extremes, going back to a folkier sound while retaining a wider range of instrumentation than the standard folk-rock unit. — Richie Unterberger
Maria Bethânia, sister of Caetano Veloso, is a renowned singer on her own. Her scenic, dramatic abilities, in a profoundly Brazilian tradition, make her performances quite personal, which has brought her a massive and faithful audience over the decades. She wanted to be an actress right from the start, as a child. But, as her mother loved to sing, music was always around. Her father was not musically gifted, but loved to listen to Dorival Caymmi and Noel Rosa compositions. At 13, her family moved to Salvador, and she began to frequent the university circles, intellectual groups reunited around Art exhibitions and performances. The access to theater plays strengthened her desire of becoming an actress. At that time, a novice Caetano had become the musical partner of the play director Álvaro Guimarães. For Álvaro's short movie Moleques de rua, Caetano composed a soundtrack which should have, according to him, his sister singing in it. At 16, Bethânia tried to refuse, as she had never sang under such pressure. But Álvaro loved her timbre, and included her in his 1963 staging of Nelson Rodrigues' musical Boca de Ouro, where she performed alla capella. In the same year, they became acquainted with Gilberto Gil and Gal Costa. Next year, Caetano was invited to organize a Brazilian popular music show at the opening of Salvador's Teatro Vila Velha. The show, called Nós, por exemplo, brought Caetano, Maria ...
Comprised of vocalist/guitarist Carol van Dijk, guitarist Peter Visser, bassist Herman Bunskoeke, and drummer Berend Dubbe, the Dutch guitar pop quartet Bettie Serveert released their debut album, Palomine, in 1992. Bettie Serveert has jangly hooks and sweet melodies to spare, yet the group can rock as hard as the Pretenders. Featuring the radio hits "Kid's Allright" and "Tom Boy," Palomine made the band alternative rock stars. The group's second album, Lamprey, was released in 1995 to favorable reviews, as was 1997's Dust Bunnies. The live Plays Venus in Furs and Other Velvet Underground Songs followed in 1998. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The point band of the early-'90s Riot Grrrl movement, Olympia, Washington's Bikini Kill exploded onto the male-dominated indie rock scene by fusing the visceral power of punk with the impassioned ideals of feminism. Calling for "Revolution Girl Style Now," the group's fiercely polemical and anthemic music helped give rise to a newly-empowered generation of women in rock, presaging the dominance female artists would enjoy throughout the decade. Bikini Kill formed in the late '80s at Olympia's liberal Evergreen College, where students Kathleen Hanna, Tobi Vail and Kathi Wilcox first teamed to publish a feminist fanzine, also dubbed Bikini Kill. Seeking to bring the publication's agenda to life, they decided to form a band, enlisting guitarist Billy Boredom (born William Karren) to round out the line-up. Led by singer-songwriter Hanna, a former stripper, the group laced their incendiary live performances with aggressive political stances which challenged the accepted hierarchy of the underground music community; slam dancers were forced to mosh at the fringes of the stage so that women could remain at the front of the crowd, for example, and female audience members were often invited to take control of the microphone to openly discuss issues of sexual abuse and misconduct. In 1991, Bikini Kill issued its first recording, Revolution Girl Style Now, an independently-distributed demo cassette. For their first official release, the quartet signed with the aggressively independent Olympia-based label Kill Rock Stars; the Bikini Kill EP, produced ...
The heavy-breathing vocalist on one of the most infamous chart-toppers in British history, Jane Birkin enjoyed a long film and recording career. Born in London in 1946, she followed in her mother's footsteps and began acting at the Kensington Academy in London. While still a teenager, she made her stage debut in Graham Greene's 1964 production Carving a Statue. One year later, she was offered a part in Passion Flower Hotel, a musical produced by James Bond series composer John Barry, and she married him soon after. Birkin's first film, The Knack...And How to Get It, followed in 1965, while a brief nude role in 1966's controversial Blow-Up made her semi-famous.
Her marriage with Barry soon broke up, however, and a trip to France introduced her to Gallic pop star Serge Gainsbourg. The two eventually married, and Birkin lent her talents to Gainsbourg's 1969 recording of the erotic pop song "Je T'Aime...Moi Non Plus." Originally released by Fontana Records in Britain, the single was soon dropped by the label; reissued on the Major Minor imprint, it hit number one in England late that year despite a radio ban. The collaborative LP Je T'aime (Beautiful Love) followed in 1970, though Birkin spent much of the early '70s working in films. She appeared in much exploitation fare, including Sex Power, Romance of a Horse Thief, and Don Juan 73, the latter featuring her as the same-sex lover of Brigitte Bardot. With help from Gainsbourg, she recorded 1975's Lolita Go Home and 1978's Ex Fan des Sixties, gaining hits in France, if not in England. Her marriage to Gainsbourg dissolved in 1980 (their daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg became a singer herself, and made a bit of controversy recording the single "Lemon Incest" with her father) and Birkin later married French director Jacques Doillon. She continued performing and acting, mostly directed to a French audience. — John Bush
Singer and violinist Iva Bittová is one of the few artists from the Czech Republic to enjoy an international career. Her irresistible charm, original use of voice, and fondness of melodies that sit on the border of avant-garde and playground nursery rhymes won her devoted fans around the world, although the core of her audience resides in Eastern Europe.
Iva Bittová was born July 7, 1958 in Bruntal, Moravia (Czech Republic). The second of three daughters, she grew up in a musical environment. Her father, Koloman Bitto, played guitar, trumpet and double bass in folk and classical ensembles. Her mother, Ludmila Bittová, a trained teacher, spent her life singing in professional vocal ensembles. During Iva’s childhood the family traveled a lot between towns as her father changed jobs frequently. She took ballet and violin lessons, and performed children’s parts on stage. The family eventually settled in Brno, and there she concentrated her interests on theater, completing her drama studies in college. For the next ten years she worked as an actress, appearing on television and in a handful of Czech feature films, including Jaromil Jires’ Ostrov Stribrnych Volavek (The Island of Silver Herons) and Zápisník Zmizeleho (Diary of a Lost Soul).
In the early 1980s Bittová renewed her interest in the violin. She began lessons with Rudolf Stastny and started to develop her unique vocal techniques, made of whispers, grunts, and moans, along with a playful, almost giddy tone. Her first musical partner was drummer Pavel Fajt (Dunaj, later with Pluto, The Danubians) with whom she recorded her first record, the 1985 Iva Bittová & Pavel Fajt. She also released a few solo EPs and recorded with ...
Crowned the new "Queen of Hip-Hop Soul," Mary J. Blige enjoyed a breakout year in 1992 with What's the 411? Such singles as "Reminisce" and "Real Love" thrust the Atlanta-born singer into the spotlight at age 21. She was raised in Yonkers and performed in local groups before making her debut for the Uptown label. The album went platinum, and a remixed version was later issued. The single "Reminisce" had a second life when it was reworked and re-done in a rap version by the duo of Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth. After 1994's My Life, she released Share My World in 1997. The Tour appeared a year later, and in 1999 she returned with Mary. — Ron Wynn
Aurora "Rory" Block has staked her claim to be one of America's top acoustic blueswomen, an interpreter of the great Delta blues singers, a slide guitarist par excellence, and also a talented songwriter on her own account. Born and raised in Manhattan by a family that had Bohemian leanings, she spent her formative years hanging out with musicians like Peter Rowan, John Sebastian, and Geoff Muldaur, who hung out in her father's sandal shop, before picking up the guitar at the age of ten. Her record debut came two years later, backing her father on the Elektra String Band Project, a concept album. She met guitarist Stefan Grossman, who, like her, was in love with the blues. The pair would often travel to the Bronx to visit the Reverend Gary Davis, one of the greatest living bluesmen. At the tender age of 15 she left home, hitting the road in true '60s fashion and traveling through the South, where she learned her blues trade at the feet of Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt, her greatest influence, before ending up in Berkeley. It was there that she developed her slide technique (she uses a socket wrench as her slide), but she didn't record until 1975, when she released I’m in Love (a compilation of earlier material, The Early Tapes 1975-76, appeared later). After two records for Chrysalis, she recorded the instructional How to Play Blues Guitar for Grossman's Kicking Mule label, and ...
This Bronx native sang with Ricardo Morero & the Group and the Dance Theater of Harlem chorus before her 1978 debut. With her strong, distinctive alto, she has carved a niche as an outstanding interpreter of soul ballads. Between 1978 and 1984, Bofill had consistent success on the R&B charts, with six albums making the Top 40 (five of which made the Top 100 on the pop charts as well), including two, Angel of the Night (1979) and Too Tough (1983), that made the Top Ten. During this period, she also placed seven singles in the R&B Top 40, with "Too Tough" making the Top Ten. Bofill's career cooled off after 1984, but she returned to the R&B charts with Intuition (1988), I Wanna Love Somebody (1993) and Love in Slow Motion (1996). — Bil Carpenter
The big-voiced Bogan made some important sides in the classic female blues tradition throughout the the mid-'20s and early '30s. Singing with astonishing forthrightness about abusive men, prostitution, and predilections for both whiskey and sex, her recorded work is all solidly imbued with proto-feminist outlooks, all the more surprising given the time frame in which her best work exists. After scoring a "race" hit in 1927 with "Sweet Petunia," she changed her name (and her vocal style with it) to Bessie Jackson. Her best known tune, the salacious "Shave 'Em Dry," has shown up on numerous compilations of bawdy blues material and is always the track everyone plays first, as its X-rated lyrical content has cross-generational appeal. Unlike other women singers from the genre, she seldom strayed into pop-style music, remaining essentially a straight-ahead blues stylist with a rock solid sense of time and a big old heart. — Cub Koda
Drawing on a variety of musical sources ranging from boogie-woogie to New Orleans R&B to swing to rock & roll, singer and barrelhouse pianist Deanna Bogart emerged as one of the most eclectic performers in contemporary blues. Born in Detroit in 1960, she cut her teeth on the Maryland blues circuit, developing a crowd-pleasing style which often found her leaping up from her piano bench to chat with the audience; clad in her trademark black fedora, Bogart was also known to blow a mean tenor saxophone. A gifted composer as well, her debut LP Out to Get You appeared in 1991, followed in 1992 by Crossing Borders; a four-year hiatus preceded the release of New Address. — Jason Ankeny
Free-spirited Suzy Bogguss successfully straddled the line between traditional and mainstream country, and in the process became one of the most popular and critically acclaimed female country singers of the late '80s and early '90s. Born in Aledo, Illinois, Bogguss sang in the Aledo Presbyterian Church Angel Choir at age five. As a young adult, she became interested in the guitar and began singing, playing whenever and wherever she could find an audience; soon Bogguss had developed a sizable following throughout the Midwest, Northeast and Canada. She appeared on a Peoria public television station, and after a positive viewer response, came back to host and star in two more shows. Not long afterward, Bogguss was hired as an opener for such acts as Dan Seals and Asleep at the Wheel, and toured the West and Mexico.
In 1985, she headed for Nashville and got a job singing in a rib joint and doing session work. She recorded an album at Wendy Waldman's studio and began giving copies to local radio stations and magazines, receiving glowing reviews. She got a gig singing at Dolly Parton's Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, leading to a contract with Capitol Nashville and an appearance on TNN's Nashville Now, where Chet Atkins invited her to open a concert. Bogguss' first two singles, "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire" and "Love Will Never Slip Away," were released in 1987 and became minor hits. In 1988, she demonstrated her prowess as a yodeler on "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart," also a modest chart success. She and producer Wendy Waldman cut her first major label album, ...
Tracy Bonham is a singer and classically trained violinist who incorporates both skills into her pop compositions. Her debut EP, The Liverpool Sessions, was released in 1995, with a full-length album, The Burdens of Being Upright, following the next year. Down Here arrived in early 2000. — Steve Huey
Definitely the most talented and arguably the all-around best jazz vocal group of all time, the Boswell Sisters parlayed their New Orleans upbringing into a swinging delivery that featured not only impossibly close harmonies but countless maneuvers of vocal gymnastics rarely equalled on record. Connee (sometimes Connie), Helvetia ("Vet") and Martha Boswell grew up singing together, soaking up Southern gospel and blues through close contact with the black community. They first performed at vaudeville houses around the New Orleans area, and began appearing on local radio by 1925. At first, they played strictly instrumentals, with Connee on cello, saxophone and guitar, Martha on piano, and Vet on violin, banjo and guitar. The station began featuring them in a vocal setting as well, with Connee taking the lead on many songs (despite a childhood accident that had crippled her and left her in a wheelchair). Word of their incredible vocal talents led to appearances in Chicago and New York, and the Boswell Sisters began recording in 1930 for Victor. By the following year, they'd moved to Brunswick and reached the Hit Parade with "When I Take My Sugar to Tea," taken from the Marx Brothers' film Monkey Business and featuring the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra in support. The trio continued to work with many of the best jazzmen in the field (including Eddie Lang, Joe Venuti and Bunny Berigan), and appeared in the 1932 film extravaganza The Big Broadcast with Bing Crosby and Cab Calloway. The Boswell Sisters hit the top of the Hit Parade only once, in 1935, with "The Object of My Affection" from the film Times Square Lady. One year later however, both Martha and Vet retired from the group in favor of married life.
Connee had already made a few solo sides for Brunswick as early as 1932, and she continued her solo career in earnest after the Boswell Sisters parted. She hit number one twice during the late '30s, with the Bing Crosby duets "Bob White (Whatcha Gonna Swing Tonight?)" and "Alexander's Ragtime Band," and continued recording into the '60s. — John Bush
Born in Galveston, Texas, singer/songwriter Libbi Bosworth was raised in a musical environment — her father, a trucker, moonlighted as a honky-tonk singer, while her mother worked at an area country station. After leaving home at the age of 16, Bosworth explored a variety of artistic avenues, including a stint in a punk band and a period studying jazz at the Berklee School of Music, before returning to Texas to focus on country music. After appearing on a number of compilations, including the 1995 collections Austin Country Nights and True Sounds of the New West, she issued her solo debut Outskirts of You in 1997. — Jason Ankeny
Cajun singer and songwriter Helen Boudreaux is a survivor. Although she experienced three failed marriages and was severly abused during two of them, Boudreaux continues to find solace in her music. "I keep bouncing up, " she said by telephone. "I have eight children and twenty-three grandchildren. I've been very fortunate. Music has given me the courage to keep going." Singing with local Cajun and Country bands in Louisiana's French Triangle for years, Boudreaux didn't record her first album until a friend persuaded her to record "For All My Family" in 1991. Signing a two-album contract with Cajun record label, Swallow, Boudreaux produced "Une Deuxieme Chanson" in 1995 and "Truck Driving Cajun Mama" two years later. Boudreaux recently completed an autobiography, appropriately titled "Cajun Survivor". — Craig Harris
A versatile singer based in New Orleans, Lillian Boutte is capable of singing both New Orleans dixieland standards and New Orleans r&b, swing era tunes and contemporary originals. She sang as a child (winning a vocal contest when she was 11), performed with her college's gospel choir and then in 1973 was hired by Allen Toussaint as a backup singer for the many projects recorded in his studio. Boutte appeared as an actress and singer in the musical One Mo' Time during 1979-84, recorded a gospel album with the Olympia Brass Band in 1980 and in 1982 made her first jazz album. Boutte has spent time alternating between living and performing in Europe and New Orleans, and she has been closely associated with reed player Thomas L'Etienne who usually leads her backup groups. Through the years Lillian Boutte has recorded for many labels (mostly in Europe) including Herman, Feel The Jazz, High Society, Turning Point, Timeless, Southland, Storyville, GHB, Calligraph (with Humphrey Lyttelton), Blues Beacon and Dinosaur Entertainment. — Scott Yanow
Irene Cara is best known as a singer of movie themes, though she has worked as an actress since her childhood. Raised in New York City, she appeared on Broadway in 1967 in the musical Maggie Flynn at age eight. She can be heard on the cast album for the show The Me Nobody Knows. From the age of 16, she was turning up on television and in films, including a part in the TV mini-series Roots 2 in 1979. In 1980, she was catapulted into stardom and a singing career by her appearance in the film Fame, for which she sang the title song, an Oscar-winning Top Ten hit. Also from the film was her Top 40 hit "Out Here on My Own." In 1983, she topped the charts with "Flashdance...What a Feelin'," from the movie Flashdance, a song she co-wrote that won another Oscar, while Cara also won a couple of Grammys for her contributions to the soundtrack. Her What a Feelin' album included the hits "Why Me?" and "Breakdance," and she also made the Top 40 with a third movie theme, "The Dream (Hold on to Your Dream)," from DC Cab. — William Ruhlmann
In Japan and the UK as well as some parts of germany the young singer/saxophonist Anita Carmichael is already recognized as a popjazz-star- and with her first album on Lipstick, the 29-year old (a former model as well as a reputed guest saxophonist who has performed with Michael Bolton, "The Commundards", Dave Steward and many others) she should reach a great repuatation worldwide.
Under her own name she has already played at festivals in Jakarta, San Sebastian and as opening act for George Benson. Her first albums were released in Japan by MIDI-Records and in the UK by "Saxology" (Target Distribution) and LIP-HOT has licensed her albums for Europe and the US. On her first album for Lipstick she is offering an enormous stylistic variety - ranging from smooth jazz vocals like "Soothe Me" (which is also on the erotic jazz compilation "Blue Moves" ) by way of popjazz-instrumentals ("Shibuya Sunset") to funk- and dance tunes. Typical is her very personal singing style - vulnerable with a slight edge - and her saxophone, which is gheavily influenced by Stan Getz (who actually was one of her saxophone teachers). because of her saxophone style she has been compared with Candy Dulfer - but she has a very different personal style and writes most of her own songs. On this album she is backed by some very experienced musicians including Gail Louise (drums), Chris Taylor (bass), Mike McEvoy (keyb.,guit.) - with whom she toured live in 1997. In fall of 96 she was performing live in the UK - including prestigous gigs at "Ronnie Scott's", "Manatees Club" and the "Jazz Cafe" - as well as a sold-out show in Minden, Germany, where she had played a year before for the first time.
The raspy-voiced singer's atmospheric #1 smash, "Bette Davis Eyes," was cowritten by Jackie DeShannon. Carnes was once a member of the New Christy Minstrels with Kenny Rogers, who gave her welcome exposure in 1980 with their duet "Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer." Later that year, a Carnes cover of the Miracles' "More Love" was a smash. She scored numerous pop hits throughout the decade and experimented with country in 1988. — Bill Dahl
Owner of a distinctively deep tone, singer/songwriter Ana Carolina began as a singer in little bars in her native Juiz de Fora. Her early theater performances were produced by singer/actress Zezé Motta. In 1999, Ana Carolina released her first CD, which had the hit "Garganta" (written for her by Totonho Villeroy) and her pop/rock/blues renditions for "Retrato Em Branco E Preto" (Tom Jobim/Chico Buarque and "Alguém Me Disse" (Evaldo Gouveia/Jair Amorim). — Alvaro Neder
Mary-Chapin Carpenter was part of a small movement of folk-influenced, country singer/songwriters of the late '80s. Although many of these performers never achieved commercial success, Carpenter was able to channel her anti-Nashville approach into chart success and industry awards by the early '90s. Carpenter was born and raised in Princeton, NJ, the daughter of a Life magazine executive; she spent two years of her childhood in Japan, when her father was launching the Asian edition of Life. During the folk explosion of the early '60s, her mother had begun to play guitar. When Mary-Chapin became interested in music as a child, her mother gave her child her guitar. Carpenter played music during her high school years, but she didn't actively pursue it as a career. In 1974, her family moved to Washington D.C., where she became involved in the city's folk music scene. After graduating from high school in the mid-'70s, she spent a year travelling Europe; when she was finished, she enrolled at Brown University, where she was an American civilization major.
Following her college graduation, she became deeply involved in the Washington-area folk scene, performing a mixture of originals, contemporary singer/songwriter material, and pop covers. Carpenter met guitarist John Jennings during the early '80s and the pair began performing together. Eventually, the duo made a demo tape of their songs, which they sold at their concerts. The tape wound up at Columbia Records, who offered Carpenter an audition. By early 1987, the label had signed her as a recording artist. Her first album, ...
After singing in various school functions, local groups, and Pepe Callahan's Mexican-Irish band, Carr began her professional musical career in earnest in the early '60s. Her solo debut was in Reno, supported by the Chuck Leonard Quartet, which led to a record contract with Liberty. While not gathering much attention in the U.S., her first single ("He's a Rebel") was a hit in Australia and led to numerous television appearances, and a spell as a regular on The Ray Anthony Show. In the late '60s, Carr scored three Top 40 hits, including the number three "It Must Be Him." Her American sales dwindled in the beginning of the '70s. With the release of her 1980 album, Vikki Carr y el Amor, Carr gained enormous success in the Latin music world. In 1991, Carr won a Best Latin Pop Album Grammy for her Cosas del Amor. Reta Manda y Provoca followed in 1998, and the next year saw the release of Memories Memorias. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Singer and cult heroine Cath Carroll was born August 25, 1960 in Avon, England; raised primarily in Manchester, she bore witness to early performances of bands including Warsaw (later rechristened Joy Division) and the Fall, and ran in some of the same social circles as a then-unknown Stephen Morrissey. With friend Liz Naylor, Carroll played in the band the Gay Animals, and also published the famously vitriolic fanzine City Fun; among the 'zine's most vocal supporters was Factory Records, and according to legend she and Naylor were granted the very first memberships to Factory's famed nightclub the Hacienda. Carroll relocated to London in 1984, where she began writing for the weekly New Musical Express, later editing their "T-Zers" gossip column; she also fronted the indie band Miaow, best remembered for their classic 1986 Factory single "When It All Comes Down" as well as their appearance on NME's seminal C-86 collection. She relocated to Chicago in 1990 to be with her future husband, ex-Big Black bassist Santiago Durango, and that same year issued her debut solo EP Beast; the full-length England Made Me followed a year later, launching the single "Moves Like You." In 1993, the American indie band Unrest issued their final album, Perfect Teeth; not only did the album feature a Robert Mapplethorpe portrait of Carroll, but the first single was also called "Cath Carroll, " complete with lyrical references to Durango, Naylor and even her NME pseudonyn Mirna Minkoff. Although Unrest frontman and TeenBeat Records honcho Mark Robinson invited her to open for one of the band's Chicago live dates, she declined; Robinson's persistence ultimately led Carroll to sign with TeenBeat, however, and in 1994 she made her label debut with "My Cold Heart." The full-length True Crime Motel followed a year later. — Jason Ankeny
Blues singer Karen Carroll was seemingly destined for a career in music: not only was her mother Jeanne Carroll a blues and jazz vocalist as well, but her godparents were guitarist George Freeman and singer Bonnie Lee. Born in Chicago on January 30, 1958, Carroll started performing at the age of nine, joining her mother's band as a guitarist five years later; at 18 she struck out on her own, cutting her teeth in tiny South Side blues joints and developing a deep vocal style heavily influenced by jazz phrasing as well as the intensity of gospel. She made her recorded debut on Carey Bell's 1984 outing Son of a Gun, followed by the 1989 Eddie Lusk LP Professor Strut; Carroll made her solo debut with 1995's Had My Fun, returning two years later with Talk to the Hand. — Jason Ankeny
A fantastic Irish fiddler from Chicago, Liz Carroll has been a member of Cherish the Ladies and the Green Fields of America. She's also part of one of the greatest Irish trios performing today, along with Billy McComiskey and Daithi Sproule. Her solo work also deserves attention. — Steve Winick
Although Lori Carson's name may not automatically come to mind when discussing the best singer-songwriters of the late '90s, it doesn't mean that she isn't deserving of such accolades. Although she has received much critical acclaim and acquired many fans along the way, her talents have unfortunately gone unrecognized (hopefully this will soon change in the Lilith Fair-friendly late '90s). Beginning with her debut in 1990, Shelter, Carson was predicted to be a major recording force by the likes of Time and Rolling Stone. But instead of following the path laid down by her debut, which she wasn't entirely happy with, she put her solo career on hold and joined friend Anton Fier in the Golden Palominos. Appearing on two of their albums, 1993's This Is How It Feels and 1994's Pure, Lori turned out to be an important addition and integral member of the band.
Returning to solo work in 1995, she released her gentle sophomore effort, Where It Goes, on Restless Records, with Fier handling production chores. Again she received praise from Rolling Stone, as well as Entertainment Weekly, Details, and other publications. It was also during 1995 that Lori began getting involved in composing for movies, as she co-wrote "Fall In the Light" for the motion picture Strange Days with writer Graeme Revell, and contributed "You Won't Fall" (from Where It Goes) to the movie Stealing Beauty. Her most stripped-down album yet, Everything I Touch Runs Wild, was released in April 1997, again to rave reviews, as Carson spent the rest of the year touring the world. Stars followed in 1999. — Greg Prato
A member of country music's most famous family, Anita Carter found success of her own as a folk solo act during the early '50s and late '60s. The Carter Family had ruled country music during the 1930s, but broke up in 1943 after patriarch A.P. Carter and his ex-wife Sara decided to retire. Sara's cousin Maybelle, the third member of the Carters, re-formed the group the same year — as Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters — with her daughters Helen, June and Anita. The sisters had sung on Carter Family radio broadcasts in 1935, and the new group more than made up for the break-up of the originals. The Carters performed on radio from Virginia, Tennessee and Missouri during the late '40s, but moved to the Grand Ole Opry in 1950.
In 1951, Anita stormed the charts on a one-off duet with Hank Snow; both "Bluebird Island" and its B-side "Down the Trail of Achin' Hearts" reached the Country Top Five. During the mid-'50s, she also performed with the teen trio 'Nita, Rita & Ruby, but spent most of her time with the Carters. The group continued to be popular on the Opry and even opened for Elvis Presley in 1956-57. After ...
A long period of struggling and near-complete obscurity preceded Betty Carter's surprising rise to fame; through it all she never compromised her musical vision. Although she never cared much for avant-garde jazz, her own interpretations of standards and originals are still so radical (with tonal distortions, a very wide range of tempos and many unexpected changes of direction) that there is simply no other term to describe her unique music. Carter studied piano and worked as a singer in Detroit in 1946. During 1948-51 she toured with Lionel Hampton (where she was nicknamed Betty "Bebop" Carter). After that association ended she settled in New York, gradually developed her style and recorded with Gigi Gryce in 1956. Although she recorded a 1961 duet album with Ray Charles that received some attention, it would be quite awhile before she gained much recognition. After doing some records for Roulette, Carter retired for a few years to raise a family. In 1969 she formed a trio and in 1971 organized her own record label Bet-Car. Gradually Betty Carter's innovative singing began to be recognized and after she signed with Verve in the early '80s, she finally became a household name (and a consistent pollwinner) in the jazz world. Carter's singing was not to everyone's taste but her willingness to take chances was quite admirable and her ability as a talent scout (her pianists have included John Hicks, Mulgrew Miller, Benny Green, Stephen Scott and Cyrus Chestnut) is beyond criticism. After a bout with cancer, she died at her home in Brooklyn on September 26, 1998. — Scott Yanow
Carlene Carter has always straddled the line between country and rock. Beginning her career as a rock singer in the mid-'70s, she became immersed in the new wave in the late '70s, before emerging as a new country singer in the late '80s, Throughout it all, her music has always infused roots music — whether its country or rock & roll — with a nervy, edgy energy. Carlene is the daughter of June Carter and Carl Smith, who divorced when their daughter was just two. June would frequently take her daughter on the Carter Family tours, which meant that Carlene developed a musical interest at an early age. When she was 12, her mother married Johnny Cash. Following the marriage, Carlene and her stepsister Rosanne Cash became backup singers in the Carter/Cash touring show.
At the age of 15 she married Joe Simpkins and had a child; they were divorced within a few years. Carter enrolled in college as a piano major in her late teens, but she never graduated. At 19, she married Jack Routh and had another child; they were divorced within two years.
In 1978, she decided to pursue a musical career, heading to Los Angeles where she received a record contract with Warner Brothers. Her debut album, Carlene Carter, was a rock & roll record recorded in London with Graham Parker's backing band, the Rumour. The following year, ...
As a member of the Carter Family, Sara Dougherty Carter laid the foundation for modern country music. During the fourteen years (1927 to 1941) that she recorded with then-husband Alvin Pleasant "A.P. " Delaney Carter and her cousin and A.P.'s sister-in-law Maybelle, Carter helped to turn the sounds of rural America into an international phenomenon.
The saga of the Carter Family began on July 31, 1927 when Sara, A.P. and Maybelle drove their Model T Ford from their home in Maces Spring, Virginia to Bristol, Tennessee, where Ralph Peer, a talent scout for Victor Records, was auditioning new acts. Passing the audition, the trio recorded three tunes on August 1 and 2, returning to their farm afterwards. When the songs proved commercially viable, they were signed by the label and brought to Camden, New Jersey where they recorded several additional tunes, including "Wildwood Flower." Singing lead and playing autoharp and guitar, Carter provided a rhythmic accompaniment to Maybelle's distinctive guitar melodies and the songs that A.P. had collected. The 273 songs that Sara recorded with The Carter Family for Victor remain a treasure chest of country music classics.
According to legend, Sara first met A.P. after he spied her sitting on her front porch playing autoharp and singing a folk song, "Engine 143." As a ...
Possessing a voice at once adept at soul, rock, pop, and folk, Valerie Carter has had a successful career as a solo artist and in-demand backup singer. Beginning her career singing in coffee houses as a teenager, she eventually became one third of the short-lived country-folk band Howdy Moon. Though they debuted at the legendary Troubador in Los Angeles in 1974, their one album is now fairly obscure. It is notable, however, for the Carter-penned song "Cook With Honey," later a minor hit for Judy Collins, and for the introduction of Carter to Lowell George, who produced the album. He would be a mentor to her till his death in 1979 and introduce her to Jackson Browne, James Taylor, and many other artists she would work with throughout her career. Her first solo album, Just a Stone's Throw Away, featured an impressive array of guest artists from the 1970s Southern California music scene. The album was well-received and garnered favorable reviews, plus an opening slot for the Eagles in Europe. Though she released another album, Wild Child, two years later, she had all but dropped out of the music business by the early '80s. By the end of the decade she had returned, focusing primarily on singing backup on a wide variety of albums by other artists. In addition, she spent most of the 1990s touring in Browne's and Taylor's bands. With the momentum afforded her by this re-entry to the music business, Carter released her first solo album in 17 years, The Way It Is, in 1996. The excellent EP Find a River followed two years later. — Rob Caldwell
The daughter of British guitarist/vocalist Martin Carthy and vocalist Norma Waterson, Eliza "Liza" Carthy has continued in her parents' footsteps. Carthy and her solo work have showcased her ability to breathe new life into England's traditional folk music. According to Dirty Linen, Carthy "has turned into a marvelous vocalist who has drawn equally from the craft and the idiosyncrasies of both her parents' distinctive styles." Carthy's earliest performances came as leader of her own band, the Kings of Calcutta, in 1990. Although they recorded a self-titled album, with producer John McCusker of the Battlefield Band, in her mother's home in 1994, it wasn't released until three years later. By that time, Carthy's debut solo album, Heat, Light and Sound, had been available for a year. In 1992, Carthy began to play in a highly technical duo with Nancy Kerr. Their first duo album, Eliza Carthy and Nancy Kerr, released in 1993, was followed by Shape of Scrape in 1995. Occasionally performing with her parents in the Watersons, since the early '90s, Carthy has been active with a traditional folk trio, Waterson -Carthy, formed in 1994. The trio has recorded two albums, Waterson: Carthy in 1994 and Common Tongue in 1996. Carthy has also recorded with a Basque band, Hirutruku. In 1998, she released the critically acclaimed Red Rice, which received a Mercury Music Prize nod, and two years later she returned with Angels and Cigarettes. Red Rice, which is a two-disc box set of traditional songs and musical crossovers, appeared in spring 2001. — Craig Harris
Beth Carvalho was born in the working class suburb of Gamboa but was raised in the middle class South Side. At the age of seven, she was performing in novice shows in several Carioca radios, like the Nacional. At the same time, she studied musical theory at the Escola Nacional de Música. With the bossa nova movement gaining informal venues like universities and schools, she gave her initial musical steps into that style. Her first recording, for example, was the single "Por Quem Morrer De Amor" (Roberto Menescal/Ronaldo Bôscoli). She also performed another bossa nova with Tibério Gaspar, musician/composer at the time, and in the bossa group Conjunto 3-D (Antônio Adolfo, piano, Chico Batera, drums, Luís, bass), singing with Eduardo Conde. But at the same time, evidenced her infatuation for the typical samba of the hills by participating in the show A Hora E A Vez Do Samba with Zé Keti and Os Cinco Crioulos.
In 1968, her interpretation for "Andança" (Danilo Caymmi/Edmundo Souto/Paulinho Tapajós) received third place at the III Festival Internacional da Canção. The success achieved gave birth to the first LP, Andança, which included the song that became a classic of MPB, being re-recorded by many great singers like Maria Bethânia, Elis Regina, and Nana Caymmi. The ...
Cat Power was the alias of Chan Marshall, a Southern-bred singer/songwriter whose father Charlie was an itinerant pianist. After dropping out of high school, Marshall found herself in New York; performing under the name Cat Power, she was booked as the opening act for Liz Phair, where she met Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley and Two Dollar Guitar's Tim Foljahn, who agreed to become her backing band. Following the release of 1995's Dear Sir and 1996's Myra Lee — both recorded on the same day — Cat Power signed to Matador for 1996's What Would the Community Think?, which won acclaim for Marshall's unsettling, emotional songs and cathartic vocals. The superb Moon Pix followed two years later, and in the spring of 2000 Cat Power resurfaced with The Covers Record. — Jason Ankeny
Daughter of Dorival Caymmi and the also singer Stella Maris (Adelaide Tostes Caymmi), Nana Caymmi is nevertheless an established singer on her own, corroborated by her expressive discography and two Golden Record's. Also a composer, she has been recorded by giants such as Milton Nascimento. Nana debuted in record in Dorival Caymmi's album Acalanto (Odeon, 1961). Marrying a Venezuelan doctor, she had moved there in 1959. Her crush for boleros come from this period. Seven years later, with two children and pregnant, divorced from her husband and came back to Rio, in June 1966. There, she became involved with the Tropicália people (her brother Dori, already a producer for Philips, was in close contact with all members of the movement, but neither of the two joined it). In this period, she met Gilberto Gil in the weekly TV Excelsior show Ensaio Geral, recorded in São Paulo, in which also participated regularly Maria Bethânia, Marília Medalha, Tuca, Francis Hime, Toquinho, Sérgio Ricardo, Ciro Monteiro and the Tamba Trio. She started an affair with Gil, and eventually they became informally married, with general scandal, as she was white and he, black. In the I FIC (International Song Festival), in Rio, 1966, with the newborn son waiting backstage, she defended ...
A gifted communicator, Chappel's songs have garnered 12 outstanding achievement awards in Billboard Magazine's Song Contests. Eight of her songs are featured in an international independent motion picture, Frog & Wombat (out now on HBO). She wraps psycho-poetic lyrics in catchy melodies, then willfully nudges each song curiously off kilter. The result is a gusty sonic atmosphere wherein your senses get convected into a higher realm. Chappel’s woman-girl voice comes across startlingly powerful for someone who stands under five feet tall. Her vocals are marked by variations in tone, intensity and color, from quivering fragility to arresting roars. On stage she transforms into an exotic imp whose tuneful tales cast a spell on her audience
With a delicate voice that shimmers between childlike innocence and smoldering sexuality, Susan Cadogan's vocals were the perfect expression of lovers rock. Surprisingly, she never intended to sing professionally, and thus her music career has been sporadic, but such was her talent, that Cadogan was crowned the Queen of Lover's Rock. Born Alison Anne Cadogan on November 2, 1951, in Kingston, Jamaica, she came from a musical family, and, if fact, her mother had released a number of gospel records during her childhood. The family emigrated to Belize in the mid-'50s, but returned to Jamaica at the end of decade, where Cadogan continued her schooling. Upon graduation, she took a job working in the library at the University of the West Indies in Mona. And there she might have remained, if not for DJ Jerry Lewis, the boyfriend of one of Cadogan's friends. Impressed by her voice, the DJ took her into the JBC studio in 1974 to record his own composition, "Love My Life," which he produced himself. Coincidentally enough, producer Lee "Scratch" Perry was at JBC that same day and was as impressed as the DJ with Cadogan's talent. Perry swiftly swooped in and took the singer under his wing, he renamed her Susan and set to work in the studio, where he had her record an album's worth of cover songs. Although a brilliant producer, Perry had some faults; at times his highly experimental production style could totally overwhelm his vocalists, while the sheer quantity of his output meant that on occasion his more generic reggae arrangements could play havoc with more delicate or soulful singers. But Perry did ...
Mama always said, "you can't sing one thing and live something else." And Shirley Caesar has definitely taken her mother's words to heart. In a career that has spanned four decades, this gospel music dynamo has collected as many kudos for her selfless church work as she has for her mesmerizing musical talents. Ten Grammys, 17 Doves, 12 Stellar awards and numerous others nods and honors have made Shirley Caesar a standout in the world of entertainment. But it's her work outside the recording studio that has made her one of the most beloved names in gospel music. As Pastor to a growing church and the leader of a thriving ministry, Caesar still took time out of her daunting schedule to create her latest album, You Can Make It, the 35th in a stunning discography that began back in 1967. The album is a jubilant jaunt through gospel, soul and a little R&B-a musical encouragement that is as electric as the woman performing it. In fact, Caesar points out that even though this is not a live album, she recorded it just as if it was.
The people and culture of the modern South serves as the inspiration for the songs of Nashville-based singer-songwriter Kate Campbell. The daughter of a Baptist preacher, Campbell uses her songs to chronicle the societal changes below the Mason-Dixon line. Born in New Orleans, where her father was attending seminary school, Campbell spent her formative years in northern Mississippi and Nashville, Tennessee. Campbell's greatest musical influence came from her mother, who sang and played blues and swing tunes on the piano. Her maternal grandfather was an amateur bluegrass fiddle and banjo player. Campbell's first instrument was a ukelele she received at the age of four. After studying classical piano, she tried her hand at clarinet before settling on the guitar. Her performing debut came when she and her sister sang Dolly Parton's "Daddy Was an Old Time Preacher Man" at a church event. The civil rights movement of the early 1960s had a profound effect on her, as her father maintained an open door policy at the white Baptist church in Sledge, Mississippi where he preached. As a teenager, Campbell was drawn to folk-rooted protest songs and became absorbed by the music of Peter, Paul and Mary. She was later influenced by singer-songwriters including James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg and Kris Kristofferson. After earning undergraduate degrees in music and history from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, Campbell continued her education at Auburn University, where she earned a master's degree in history. Although she temporarily lived in California with her husband Ira, she returned to Nashville in 1988. Her debut album, Songs from the Levee, was released in 1995. A slew of releases for Compass followed throughout the nineties ; Moonpie Dreams (1997), Visions of Plenty (1998), and Rosaryville (1999). In 2001, Campbell switched labels, releasing Wandering Strange on Eminent. — Craig Harris
Ironically, Nashville-born singer/songwriter Laura Cantrell had to go to New York City to fulfill her traditionalist country vision. After graduating from Columbia University with a degree in literature in the late '80s, Cantrell spent a brief time working for the ABC radio network before developing a following spinning old records on her Radio Thrift Shop show on New Jersey's famed free-form station WFMU. At the same time, she began building up a reputation as a performer, garnering comparisons to predecessors like Lucinda Williams and Nanci Griffith (though, as a singer, Cantrell's clear-eyed neo-traditionalism lies much closer to Kitty Wells than the rangy emotional dynamics of Williams or the good-natured folkyness Griffith). To add another wrinkle to the geographical irony of Cantrell's career, her debut, Not the Tremblin' Kind, was first released in March 2000 on Glasgow, Scotland's Spit & Polish label. The album, a mix of strong originals and covers by songwriters like Joe Flood, Amy Allison, George Usher, and the Volebeats' Bob McCreedy, earned her rave reviews in the U.K. In October 2000, Brooklyn, New York label Diesel Only released the album stateside, where once again it was met with widespread acclaim. — Erik Hage Born in Ontario, Canada, Rita Chiarelli began singing in high school and toured widely after graduation with her backup band Battleaxe. She caught the eye of Ronnie Hawkins, who recruited her to sing with him. Chiarelli later moved to Italy for five years, but returned to Canada in 1987. "Have You Seen My Shoes?," her first single, appeared that same year. Warner Music signed her and later released her debut album, 1992's Road Rockets. What a Night: Live followed in 1997; Breakfast at Midnight appread four years later. — John Bush
Munich's electronic pop/multimedia trio Chicks on Speed features former New Yorker Melissa Logan, Australian Alex Murray-Leslie, and Munich native Kiki Moorse. Along with crafting deconstructed, feminist-leaning synth pop, the group also runs Go Records, Stop Records, and Chicks on Speed Records; designs video and print graphics and art installations; and makes and sells avant-garde paper and leather clothing. Appropriate to their arty, Eurotrash vibe, Moorse, Logan, and Murray-Leslie met in 1997 at a bar near Munich's Art Academy. Soon after, they were releasing limited-edition, critically-acclaimed singles such as Smash Metal, which pitted the group against Patrick Pulsinger, DMX Krew, and DJ Hell (whose album Munich Machine they also appeared on), as well as the ironic, pseudo-house anthem Glamour Girl. Their live shows ranged from appearances at 2000's Love Parade festival to touring with Console and Super Collider to gigs at renovated mental hospitals. Mid-2000 saw the release of their debut album Will Save Us All!; later that year, the rarities collection The Re-Releases of the Un-Releases was issued by K Records in the U.S. Monsters Rule This World was issued that same year. — Heather Phares