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OUTMusic Award winners for 2006
An in-depth look at American queer music winners

by Jason Victor Serinius
Our community has every reason to be proud of its musicians. Extremely talented, fearlessly out, strong of voice, and open of heart, the recipients of this year’s Outmusic Awards (www.outmusic.com) include a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, Grammy-feted record producer and a host of independent artists who continually uplift and move their audiences.

All the CDs discussed below can be obtained via the artists’ websites (add .com to their names and you’re there), CDBaby, and other forward-thinking outlets.

Outstanding Songwriter
Toshi Reagon
“Have You Heard” (Righteous Babe Records)
One big surprise when listening to Toshi Reagon is that expectations of encountering a soul-singer Mama, fueled by her photo, are confounded by her girlish voice and far-ranging, clearly articulated lyrics. “Trying to Bring Love Home” is an affecting, folksy ballad, while others tracks are more R&B, soul and classic southern blues. It’s much easier to like Reagon’s appealing music and lyrics than to neatly classify them; the subject matter and artistic scope of this guitar-toting lesbian are too broad to be put into a box other than award-quality.

Outstanding Debut Recording – Female
Melissa Fogarty
“Handel Scorned & Betrayed” (Albany Records)
I first heard Melissa Fogarty’s beautiful soprano in the Bay Area, when she shone in a rare production of an obscure baroque comic opera. Since relocating to the New York City area to join her harpsichordist partner, Jennifer Griesbach, Fogarty punctuates performances with early music groups with avant-garde gigs at Manhattan’s famed The Kitchen. She’s even performed at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival with klezmer band Isle of Lesbos. Here, accompanied by authentic baroque instruments, she delivers lovely, technically accomplished renditions of Georg Frideric Handel’s three Italian cantatas. The divide between the soubrettish quality of the voice and the music’s dramatic import is nicely bridged by a wealth of conviction, nuance and personality.

Outstanding New Recording – Male
Mark Weigle
“Soul Sex” (Independent)
Following his record-setting Outmusic triple win two years ago, California-based Weigle delivers a two-CD album where soulful maturity and emotional honesty dance heart-to-heart and loin to loin. Weigle’s humanity — his solidarity with the oppressed, condemnation of spiritually bankrupt religious authorities, affirmation of sexual ecstasy and championing of the rainbow of sexual expression — seem courageous in an era of public cowardice and death-fulfilling prophecy. It’s one thing to take a stand and spread one’s legs; it’s another to set words to music in ways that drive the feelings deep inside. There’s an emotional brilliance and non-conformist strength to Weigle’s “Soul Sex” that prove it a worthy bedfellow to the quotes from Walt Whitman, Gore Vidal, John Rechy, Allen Ginsberg and Armistead Maupin that grease the insides of this amazing fantasy-meets-reality album.

Outstanding New Recording – Instrumental
David Del Tredici
“Paul Revere’s Ride” (Telarc)
After living through the horrors of 9/11, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Del Tredici, a resident of New York’s West Village, experienced a spell of patriotism that impelled him to write “Paul Revere’s Ride.” The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, directed by Robert Spano, do a stunning job with this 30-minute setting of Longfellow’s classic tale for orchestra, amplified soprano (the amazing Hila Plitman), huge chorus and every instrument and noisemaker under the sun. Always the rogue, Del Tredici indulges in such escapades as a spirited Fugue that pits “Rule, Britannia” against “Yankee Doodle,” and a rousing theme (complete with wind machine and sirens) that continually gallops through one’s head. With its gorgeous chorale and the triumphant, joy-filled ending that pulls out all stops, “Paul Revere’s Ride” is a trip and a half.

Outstanding New Recording – Female
Nedra Johnson
“Nedra” (BigMouthGirl Records)
Beginning with “Ahha (It’s a Good Thing),” in which she affirms lesbianism, the importance of womyn’s music, and a whole lot more about our culture, fabulously deep-voiced Nedra Johnson shares coy songs about her life and identity. Her song “Prozac” is not what you’d expect, and “New Boy Blues” holds nothing back in terms of role-playing. Gosh, Toto, are there girls with moustaches and hairy legs in Kansas, or is it really this down and dirty in Oz? In love songs, blues songs, songs of faith, all funky and fresh with a distinctive dyke cast, Nedra Johnson does our culture proud.

Outstanding New Recording – Duo or Group
“Little Star” (Daemon Records)
There’s no way not to love the sound of this trio of friends (two of them girlymen) that performs at major folk festivals and has toured with the Indigo Girls and Dar Williams. On a 12-track journey that starts with a has-been TV host and ends with a war veteran, Girlyman treats us to soul-searching songs about soldiers murdering far away, and others about love and disappointment. Though one might wish for more vocal edge to match the lyrics, Girlyman’s beguilingly innocent, retro harmonies demonstrate that even the sweetest sounding people on the planet harbor deep feelings about our internal and external state.

Out Song Of The Year (an Outmusic Members Choice Award)
The Underdogs,” written by Jen Foster & Kathy Scott from Jen Foster’s CD “The Underdogs.” (Independent)
Reading the rave reviews that have followed in the wake of Jen Foster’s excellent sophomore folk/rock/pop triumph, one can only laugh at pretentious, name-dropping attempts to liken her to a string of other artists. Better to accept Foster on her own terms, as a versatile singer-songwriter whose unique, must-hear “The Underdogs” is a riveting tale of youthful coming out. Equally notable is her non-sectarian “Amen,” which managed to win the USA Songwriting Contest’s Gospel Award. Catch these lyrics to “Without Michelangelo”: Black is only black until you light a candle / Stone is only stone until you take a hammer / And this song was just a song / until the day you came along and wrote this wrong.” Foster sings of pain and angst, shattered hopes and angels with rock-solid strength and more than a touch of soul.

Outstanding New Recording – Band
Triple Creme
“This Might Hurt”
If a raucous wall of sound turns you on, then Triple Creme’s four young dykes from Brooklyn may be your ticket to nirvana. Their sound, an amalgam of heavy metal, hard rock and punk made all the more raucous by the 10-track CD-R’s edgy sonics, comes complete with dueling guitars and spoken/shouted vocals from Christina Mazzalupo and Robyn Pickering that blend the personal with the political. Mazzalupo has summed up the band as “Exceedingly rich. Soft and spreadable. Slight tart finish. Salted.” This may be true of the love the women have for each other and their music, and some of the surprisingly personal and affecting lyrics, but there’s less than little soft about the sound.

Outstanding Album Design
Candye Kane
“White Trash Girl” (RUF)
I’ll let you decide about the artwork, and instead concentrate on the singing. What a voice! When Candye Kane sings that she’s a white trash girl, the sound of beer, cigarettes and rockabilly living comes through loud and clear. Born in East L.A. to a father imprisoned for embezzlement, she grew up with an artist stepdad who made collages from refuse while her mother scoured dumpsters for treasures. This dyke knows the life she sings about, and that includes lesbian love. Some of the 14 songs on her seventh CD (e.g. “What a Day for a Daydream” and a very unusual arrangement of “Let There be Peace on Earth”) are covers; eight are originals. All boast a classic sound and unforgettable delivery. Songs like “Big Fat Mamas are Back in Style” and “Masturbation Blues” may limit the audience, but I for one throw up my hands and rejoice at Candye Kane’s good-natured humor and unapologetic celebration of her iconoclastic universe.

Outstanding New Recording – Inspirational
Marsha Stevens-Pino
“You Called Us Good”
This enhanced CD, complete with a short video, serves as a testament to Marsha Stevens-Pino’s faith in Jesus. Founder of Southern California’s Balm Ministries, Stevens-Pino proudly proclaims that one can serve Jesus Christ and live in an openly lesbian relationship. Her Christian folk-rock and country-styled ballads, interspersed with tracks of testimony and commentary by Marsha and her partner Cindy Stevens-Pino, affirm that the Christian Church is a church of outcasts in which LGBT people have always played a part. Stevens-Pino lays it on thick with vocal accents, but those devoted to spreading the gospel of Jesus have never been known for their subtlety.
Outstanding New Recording – Chorus Or Choir

San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus
“Home for the Holidays”
For the past 15 years, the SFGMC has warmed the LGBT community and its friends with annual Christmas Eve concerts in the historic Castro Theater. “Home for the Holidays” brings together the best of the chorus’s concerts from 2000-2004. “Staged” might be a better word, since the evenings invariably involve costumes and shtick. The difference between this chorus and others is the quality of the singing and repertoire. Directed by Dr. Kathleen McGuire, a wonderfully poised woman whose solid conducting distinguishes every track on this joyous, celebratory CD, the tracks include the obligatory Jewish and African cuts, a guest stint by the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco, some beautiful classical music by John Rutter and others, and lots of laughter.

Outmusican Of The Year
Robert Urban
Robert Urban received this year’s members’ choice award for his work as a volunteer producer/promoter/host & performer of a plethora of live LGBT concerts and events, including NYC all-transgender artists shows, bar shows, and the lesbian Festival of Hope concert for pancreatic cancer. Author of the paper, “Gay Male Hip-Hop Artists,” he serves as founder and moderator of Gay Guitarists Worldwide, and a volunteer accompanist to many LGBT musicians. Beyond his credits, which are too numerous to mention, Robert Urban is an excellent vocalist and multi-instrumentalist whose well-recorded CD, “Rock Widow” blew me away.

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