It’s a testament to the timelessness of Hawksley Workman’s music that the reissue of “For Him and the Girls” sounds like he could have written and recorded it yesterday or today.
The out Canadian singer/songwriter and guitar virtuoso, one of the most riveting live performers I have ever experienced, is simply whetting our appetites for his forthcoming album. Songs such as the delectable “No Sissies,” sinister “Tarantulove,” “Sweet Hallelujah” (which lands softly somewhere between fellow Canadians Leonard Cohen and Rufus Wainwright), the exquisite acoustic “Safe and Sound,” and the crazy comfort of “Paper Shoes” are proof that Workman is one of a kind.
I advise you to also snag Workman’s 2001 masterwork “(Last Night We Were) The Delicious Wolves,” which contains the irresistible “Jealous of your Cigarette.”
O, Canada! The Hidden Cameras also hail from that mighty land to our north, but “Origin: Orphan” opens on an exotic note with the Middle Eastern-influenced “Ratify The New.” Then, before you know it, Joel Gibb and company return to their delirious and suggestive chamber pop roots.
Sexually active cuts, such as “He Falls to Me,” “Colour of a Man” and “Kingdom Come,” indicate Gibb still has men on his mind. And he proves himself to be a romantic, both hopeless and hopeful, on “In The NA” and “Do I Belong.”
Keeping with the Canadian theme, out twin sisters Tegan and Sara return with another fine album, “Sainthood.” The songs are examples of the twins’ continued growth as one of the most influential musical acts out there. In the same way that Ani DiFranco inspired imitators, it’s easy to imagine girl bands planning to follow in Tegan and Sara’s distinctive footsteps.
“Sainthood” contains all of the elements that have made Tegan and Sara so popular — the unique lyrical perspective, the way their voices spill over each other like waves, their masterful musicianship. Alluring tunes include “On Directing,” “Red Belt,” the thrashing “Northshore,” the biting and blubbering “Alligator,” the fluid “The Ocean” and the compelling “Someday.”
Beth Ditto of the Gossip is another visible out musician who has broken down barriers and received acclaim and adoration. A brash and brazen southern belle, Ditto and her band mates blaze through 13 tunes on “Music For Men,” leaving ashes and asses shaking in their wake.
Equally adept at belting bluesy numbers such as “8th Wonder,” “Dimestore Diamond” and “The Breakdown” as she is at strutting like a disco diva on “Love Long Distance,” “Pop Goes The World,” “Men In Love,” “Love And Let Love,” Beth Ditto is a true original and Gossip is something to talk about.
As queer voices go, Brandi Carlile, who performs at The Pabst, Jan. 21, has one for the ages. Soulful and haunting, it’s a voice that sticks to your ribs and brings a range of emotions to your ears. “Give Up The Ghost,” Carlile’s third studio disc, is her most accomplished, accessible and enjoyable. Still in her 20s, Carlile is a seasoned performer, having recently toured with the Indigo Girls (again).
She wastes no time reeling us in with the amazing “Looking Out” and follows it with equally enticing numbers, including “Dying Day,” “Dreams,” “That Year,” “Caroline,” “Before It Breaks,” “If There Was No You” and “Oh Dear.”
It wouldn’t take much effort to eviscerate “I Bought A Blue Car Today” by out star of stage and screen Alan Cumming. His unique vocal style probably isn’t to all tastes, even those with the least bit of affection for the theatrical or the absurd.
However, I want to commend Mr. C for the notable chances he took on his debut album. “Wig In A Box/Wicked Little Town” from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is a fit for Cumming. So are his renditions of songs by John Bucchino (“Expressed”) and William Finn (“What More Can I Say”), as well as “Where I Want To Be” from “Chess” and Jimmy Webb’s “All I Know.” That said, Cumming falls short on the remainder of the selections, including “Shine” (co-written by “Three Penny Opera” co-star Cyndi Lauper) and bad homages to Sinatra and Dolly (“That’s Life” and “Here You Come Again”).