So, this subject has made it’s way into conversations between myself and friends of mine a lot in the past week. Strange, huh? I’m very vocal about my opinions on music, as are most of my friends. I don’t really hang out with any non-music lovers. I’m going to chock this recurring subject up to the fact that Devil Doll will be playing at a big festival here in October. When my friends and I get together and we start talking about this upcoming show and it’s line-up, I tend to throw in a snarky comment about how I am “less than thrilled” that Devil Doll is on the bill. Actually, most of my friends are surprised by this…a lot of them are fans of hers. Then, of course, I’m left feeling bad about sticking my foot in my mouth and then go on to try and explain myself. I feel like I explained it best to my gal pal, Alli Outlaw, this weekend. My mother raised me on blues music. (REAL blues music) I grew up mostly listening to the Delta Blues and Chicago Blues, or being that I’m from Texas- a lot of Texas Blues. Of course we listened to a slew of other genres growing up, (such as soul, original rhythm and blues, rock and roll, country and western, rockabilly, etc.) but I attribute a lot of my love and thirst for the music I love now to blues music.
That being said, I blame original blues musicians for setting the bar so high! It’s not that I don’t love female vocals, it’s the fact that I compare most modern female singers to the likes of Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Memphis Minnie, Bessie Smith, Koko Taylor, and Big Mama Thornton. (To name a few!) It wasn’t until later in life that I discovered rockabilly, country, bluegrass, jazz, punk rock, and rock and roll female vocalists. This is when I started to discover how high my standards were. If a singer didn’t knock my socks off in the first 5-10 seconds, I wasn’t interested. A lot of people will “settle” for “decent” music. Not me. It didn’t work when I was a kid and it works even less now. The first time I heard the likes of Wanda Jackson, Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells, Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday, Gillian Welch, Bonnie Raitt, Alison Krauss, Lorrie Collins,Joan Jett, Patti Smith, Rose Maddox (etc., etc.)…my jaw dropped. I heard these women and grew speechless. My hair stood on end from the beginning of the song until the end.
So, to make a long story not-so short, I will make my point. (This all started with Devil Doll so I guess that’s where I should end it!) The majority of women that make it in rockabilly, country, or psychobilly these days (let’s say, in the past 10-15 years) just seem very sub-par to me. Ie: Devil Doll, Imelda May, Zombina and the Skeletones, Kim Lenz (who, I’ve been trying to get into for a long time. I have yet to see her live, though. Maybe that’ll be a big selling point. Hopefully when I do, Nick Curran will be playing guitar with her!) The Creepshow, Mad Marge and the Stonecutters, etc. (There aren’t a lot out there) It’s all very boring to me. The majority of it, in my opinion, sounds like No Doubt (from the Tragic Kingdom days) hired an upright bass player…or like a professionally recorded open-mic night. I’m just not impressed. Don’t get me wrong, I give them endless amounts of props for getting up on stage and facing big crowds. Also, a lot of these bands share the stage with a lot of well known all-male veteran bands. It’s awesome that these women aren’t afraid to do that. But, we’re not talking about the amount off confidence they have- we’re talking about the amount of talent.
So, I guess I’m just trying to say don’t settle for something just because you think it “passes” for rockabilly, country, psychobilly, etc. The more we demand good music, the more likely we are to get it. Talent was required of musicians 50 years ago and it should still be required today.