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Friday, November 11, 2016

The Gift of LGBT Music

Written by  Gregg Shapiro
Brandy Clark Brandy Clark

It’s hard to imagine the spectrum of music without the contributions of LGBT artists. So don’t even try. From show tunes to country music, from indie rock to jazz, queer musicians continue to have a presence you can hear and feel.

Not just a stage – A loving homage to the both the popular disaster movies (i.e. The Poseideon Adventure and Airport 1975) and the music (“Hot Stuff,” “Theme From Mahogany,” “I Will Survive” and “You’re My Best Friend,” among others) of the 1970s, Disaster: Original Broadway Cast Recording (Broadway Records) is co-written by gay Broadway maven Seth Rudetsky and out actor Jack Plotnick.

The double-disc 2015 New York Cast Recording of A New Brain (PS Classics) by William Finn (Falsettos) and his collaborator James Lapine, features Jonathan Groff, Christian Borle and Ana Gasteyer, to mention a few of the cast members.

The two-CD original cast recording of the chamber musical First Daughter Suite (Ghostlight / Razor & Tie) by gay composer / lyricist Michael John LaChiusa features Tony nominees Mary Testa as Barbara Bush and Alison Fraser as Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan.

For queer hipster ears – Teens of Denial (Matador), the eagerly anticipated second album by Car Seat Headrest (aka Will Toledo) doesn’t disappoint, delivering on the promise of 2015’s Teens of Style with brilliant numbers such as “Destroyed By Hippie Powers,” “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales,” “Vincent,” and “(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School for Using) Drugs With Friend (But Says this isn’t a Problem).”

Led by trans rock legend Laura Jane Grace, Against Me! returns with Shape Shift With Me (Total Treble), while not as remarkable as 2014’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues, it includes outstanding songs such as “Delicate, Petite & Other Things I’ll Never Be,” “12:03,” “Haunting, Haunted, Haunts,” and “All This (And More),” and “Rebecca.”

For I Had A Dream That You Were Mine (Glassnote) openly gay Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend fame has teamed up with Hamilton Leithauser of The Walkmen to form Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam for one of the most compelling collaborations of the year.

Queer country queens – Big Day in a Small Town (WB), the official major-label debut by lesbian singer/songwriter Brandy Clark is a masterpiece. Seriously. One of the queerest and best artists in Nashville, Clark’s songs have been covered by others (see Kacey Musgraves), but nothing beats hearing Clark singing the title tune, “Three Kids No Husband,” “Soap Opera,” Homecoming Queen,” and the heartbreaking “You Can Come Over.”

Publicly out a few years before Clark (and Ty Herndon and Billy Gilman), Chely Wright returns with I Am The Rain (Megaforce), her first album in almost six years. Produced by Joe Henry (Madonna’s brother-in-law to some of you), and featuring guest artists Rodney Crowell (producer of Wright’s previous album), Emmylou Harris and The Milk Carton Kids, I Am The Rain is a dazzling, stripped down affair that is not to be missed.

Jazz hands – Gay jazz pianist and composer Fred Hersch, who has been a recording artist for more than 30 years, performs originals and covers (including the Beatles’ “For No One”) on Sunday Night at the Vanguard (Palmetto) with John Herbert on bass and Eric McPherson on drum on this latest offering from The Fred Hersch Trio.

On Songs of Life (Miranda Music), Scott Morgan, Fred Hersch’s partner, covers three of Hersch’s songs, as well a mix of vintage (“Lost In The Stars,” “I’m Just A Lucky So and So”) and contemporary (the Beatles’ “I Will,” James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight,” and “Secret O’ Life” ) standards.

Lesbian drummer extraordinaire Allison Miller is as well-known for her solo albums as she is for her collaborations and work as an in-demand session musician. Two of Miller’s most recent collaborations include Swivel (Little 1 Music) as part of the Honey Ear Trio (along with Jeff Lederer and Rene Hart) and Lean (Music Wizards) with Jerome Sabbagh and Simon Jermyn.

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