Pandemic pals

Looking for musical friends with whom you can pass the time while the country shuts down (again!) as the pandemic continues to rage? The following albums are worth hearing while being in lockdown. I’ve always thought of Steve Earle as the Bruce Springsteen of modern country. With his similar vocal style and his songs about the common man, Earle makes music that could be described as Springstwang. This has never been truer than on Ghosts of West Virginia (New West) by Steve Earle and the Dukes. The songs are intended to be a musical companion piece for playwrights Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen’s […]

Latest and Greatest: an interview with Becca Mancari

It’s only July, but rest assured that The Greatest Part (Captured Tracks), the breathtaking second album by out singer/songwriter Becca Mancari will not be forgotten when folks assemble their end-of-the-year, best of 2020 albums lists. The Greatest Part, available in a limited edition clear pink vinyl LP version, is a sonic departure from her Americana-laced 2017 debut Good Woman. Working with musician/producer Zac Farro (of Paramore fame), Mancari has created a forward-thinking audio landscape for her deeply personal lyrics, some of which deal with being raised in and surviving a strict religious background. Songs such as “Hunter”, “Stay With Me”, “First Time”, “Like This” and “Tear […]

House music

Let’s face it, things are getting ugly and scary out there. As this is being written, confirmed COVID-19 cases have reached more than 10 million worldwide, with more than half a million deaths and counting. Self-quarantining is the hottest (and healthiest) trend in years. For those unable to get to their workouts at the gym or favorite dance club because they’ve been shut down again after reopening too soon, here are some new releases sure to get your heart rate up and your body moving. Play them loud and if the neighbors complain, dance harder.   Suddenly (Merge) by Caribou (aka musician and […]

As “Perfect” as Trump

Nannies get a bad rap. As portrayed by Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins may have made nannies safe for moviegoers in 1964, but a year later, Bette Davis changed all that in 1965’s The Nanny. As you might have guessed from the title, The Perfect Nanny (Icarus/Distrib), which shares its title with a song from Mary Poppins, and is based on the bestselling novel by Leila Slimani, is about a nanny who is anything but.   Paul (Antoine Reinartz from the incredible 2017 gay film BPM) and Myriam (Leïla Bekhti) are a young married Parisian couple, the parents of five-year-old Mila (Assya Da Silva) and toddler […]

(Beautiful) music men

When Orange Crate Art (Omnivore), newly reissued in an expanded double CD or LP set, was originally released in 1995, it was the first time that music legends Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, both known for their distinctive SoCal musical styles, had worked together since Parks collaborated with The Beach Boys on the notorious SMiLE album in the 1960s. Orange Crate Art turns out to be a collaboration that makes perfect sense on paper, if not in actual execution. Unlike say Nilsson Sings Newman, on which Harry Nilsson sang the songs of Randy Newman, having Brian Wilson (whose voice […]

Out, loud and proud: an interview with SONiA

Baltimore native, out musician, activist, and even a bit of a mystic, Sonia Rutstein, better known to her fans and followers as SONiA of disappear fear, has a musical gift for everyone. The new 12-song CD compilation Love Out Loud (soniadisappearfear.com) collects some of her queerest and most uplifting songs resulting in the perfect soundtrack for your 2020 Pride observances. Drawing on selections spanning almost 25 years, including solo work as well as those recorded with her sister Cindy (from disappear fear’s early days), the album is as much a musical history lesson as it is a celebration of the […]

2020 Pride all summer long reading list

Whether you’re sitting out the Pride season by keeping your observances at a social distance or you’re taking it to the streets in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first Pride march, having reading materials on hand to augment the celebration is always a good idea. The following books are some worthwhile suggestions. Young readers October may be a few months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about Halloween (considered by some to be one of the gay national holidays). In Christopher Pumpkin (Little, Brown, 2020) by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet with illustrations by Nick […]

(Beautiful) Music Men

When Orange Crate Art (Omnivore), newly reissued in an expanded double CD or LP set, was originally released in 1995, it was the first time that music legends Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, both known for their distinctive SoCal musical styles, had worked together since Parks collaborated with The Beach Boys on the notorious SMiLE album in the 1960s. Orange Crate Art turns out to be a collaboration that makes perfect sense on paper, if not in actual execution. Unlike say Nilsson Sings Newman, on which Harry Nilsson sang the songs of Randy Newman, having Brian Wilson (whose voice […]

Bold ‘Wives’ Tale

“Inspired by the true stories of the women who started the first military wives choir,” director Peter Cattaneo’s Military Wives (Bleecker Street), and its on-the-nose title, comes from a long tradition of movies that also includes Cattaneo’s full-length feature debut The Full Monty. In the same category, you will also find Calendar Girls, Kinky Boots, Brassed Off, Pride, and even Sister Act. Have you figured out where this is going? That’s right, an unlikely and often motley crew comes together during an extremely challenging time to lift each other’s spirits and leave the audience in tears. Kate (Kristin Scott Thomas) […]

How high

While watching “The High Note” (Focus), Tracee Ellis Ross’ first major motion picture role as a lead actress, don’t be surprised if you find yourself thinking, “Well, this could have gone either way.” Even in the more than capable hands of lesbian filmmaker Nisha Ganatra (“Late Night” and “Chutney Popcorn”), and without the star power of say, Emma Thompson, “The High Note” could have gone sour. As it is, it can be kind of pitchy. Ross, the daughter of diva Diana Ross, plays Grace Davis, a celebrated recording star with 11 Grammys to her name struggling to stay relevant in an industry […]