Musical Artists of Note

 
Artist
Description
Ani DiFranco Ani DiFranco's music defies classification, but some have called her style "punk-folk." Ani has spurned signing with a major record company, instead choosing to release on her own Righteous Babe Records label. Ani is exceptionally skilled on the guitar and has a vocal style uniquely her own. Many of her up-tempo tracks have a pulsing, almost throbbing quality due to the prominent placement of the guitar and rhythm section in the mix. Ani has developed a devoted fan base in part because of her willingness to challenge the political and sexual status quo of America through her lyrics. I continue to be amazed at the way her music continues to evolve, yet rarely at the cost of a misstep. Revelling / Reckoning, her 2001 release, has a jazz undercurrent to a number of the tracks. It's truly an exceptional double CD set.
Dar Williams Dar, a contemporary folk artist, is another favorite of mine. Her lyrics are very meaningful & often tackle social issues. A new listener might try "The Honesty Room" for a contemporary folk feel or "The End of the Summer" for a more folk-pop sound.Go to Dar's web page.
Tori Amos Tori is a very gifted singer-songwriter who writes songs of great honesty and strength. Her soprano voice may at first remind you of Kate Bush, but you will find marked differences after spending time in Tori's musical world.Go to "A Dent in the Tori Amos Net Universe".
Sarah McLachlan Sarah, like Tori, is a singer-songwriter with a voice that lingers in the upper reaches of the soprano range. The texture of Sarah's music tends to involve electronic instruments & the rhythm section, while Tori's music is often backed by piano and occaisionally strings. Sarah recently organized the groundbreaking Lilith Fair. tour in the summer of 1997 to celebrate women in music. Visit some Sarah links.
Susan Werner Another contemporary folk artist to watch is Susan Werner. She packs her live performances with energy, exceptional musicianship and a delightful sense of humor. Her album, Last of the Good Straight Girls contains one of my favorite songs of the last few years, "No One Here But Me." See her live if you have a chance. Susan's talents exceed those of many popular artists who have made it.Go to the Susan Werner entry at the Ultimate Band List.
Shawn Colvin Shawn Colvin is a contemporary fok singer-songwriter with roots in the Big Apple. Her voice conveys emotion very effectively. A touch of country-western instrumentation sometimes makes its way into the music but doesn't ever seem to dominate the folk feeling of her sound. Her most recent effort, A Few Small Repairs, is Grammy award winning. Check out a Shawn Colvin page.
disappear fear I discovered this contemporary folk group based out of Baltimore, Maryland in 1996. Many Indigo Girls fans will appreciate the harmonies and acoustic guitar instrumentation in this group. Their music is brutally honest, dealing with some of the most important issues and problems of our times. Their sound is melodic and occasionally incongruously upbeat (considering the content of the lyrics). Go to the disappear fear home page.
Happy Rhodes Happy Rhodes is another very gifted singer-songwriter. Very few female recording artists can match the practical range of her voice. She can sing in a beautiful soprano and drop to an amazing tenor in the space of a couple seconds without sounding the least bit strained. Lately, her music has a decidedly synth.-pop feel but never sounds artificial or contrived. Visit a Happy Rhodes web site.
October Project This (now disbanded) group has a very distinctive sound which is often dark, frequently complex texturally, and always melodic. The lead singer, Mary Fahl, possesses one of the most unique voices I've ever heard. New listeners should not give up too quickly; patience will be rewarded. The track "Sunday Morning Yellow Sky" on Falling Further In (1995) is an incredible blend of melody and rhythmic textures.Jump to a list of October Project links.
Innocence Mission The music by this band has been described as optimistic. The lead vocals by Karen Peris are uplifting, especially on their 1995 release entitled Glow. Here is the FAQ file for the Innocence Mission.

In 1992, while a student at the University of Illinois, I discovered that my musical tastes were similar to a group of listeners who called themselves "Ectophiles" (after a 1992 Happy Rhodes release entitled Ecto). There is an Ecto web site which has been influential in my quest for new artists, leading me to such impressive acts as October Project and Dar Williams.
Other interesting female musical artists can be found at Ladyslipper.org.

 Year by Year

 My favorite albums of the last several years in chronological order.
Year Artist Album
 1989  Indigo Girls Indigo Girls
 1990  Enigma MCMXC A.D.
 1991  Amos, Tori Little Earthquakes
 1992  R.E.M. Automatic for the People
 1993  McLachlan, Sarah Fumbling Towards Ecstacy
 1994  Disappear Fear Disappear Fear
 1995  Werner, Susan Last of the Good Straight Girls
 1996  Apple, Fiona Tidal
 1997  DiFranco, Ani Living in Clip
1998
 Hill, Lauryn The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
1999
 DiFranco, Ani To the Teeth
2000
Williams, Dar  The Green World
2001
DiFranco, Ani
 Revelling / Reckoning
2002
Jones, Norah Come Away with Me
2003
Akwid Proyecto Akwid
     
Modern Classics

My Favorite Albums of All Time

1) Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos

This album, Tori's second release (after her ill conceived Y Kant Tori Read), was very influential in directing my musical tastes toward female artists. It is distinguished by beautiful melodies sung by Tori over a backdrop of her empassioned piano accompaniment. "Silent All These Years" may be my favorite Tori song.

2) Fumbling Towards Ecstacy by Sarah McLachlan

Sarah's third album features a diverse collection of songs, all of which are high quality. Her fellow musicians are truly masterful in creating an exotic texture over which her soprano vocals soar.

3) The Honesty Room by Dar Williams

"When I Was A Boy." is the first song I ever heard by Dar. It laments the difficulty members of our society face in breaking out of stereotypical gender roles. In addition to this moving song, there are standout tracks dealing with such topics as Mark Rothko, the afterlife, and a fire which consumes a local watering hole. Few artists today write lyrics which are as touching and powerful as Dar's.

4) OK Computer by Radiohead

I didn't realize how talented Radiohead was until I heard OK Computer. This album is completely distinguished from the usual alternative rock release today. It is lovingly produced to create some great large-scale musical textures including strings, grungy guitars and unique synthesized tones. The end result is a classic album unlike anything I've heard before or since.

5) Last of the Good Straight Girls by Susan Werner

After hearing this album, I couldn't believe Susan Werner has not achieved greater recognition for her work. This record is a showcase for a musician of great creativity and ability. As much as I love Shawn Colvin's work, I think Susan Werner is a better songwriter and performer. This album is my favorite of Susan's. It contains what I feel may be the best song of 1995 entitled "No One Here But Me."

6) Automatic for the People by REM

Much like OK Computer by Radiohead, Automatic for the People is a musical work on a large scale. By adding string accompaniment to its finely tuned musicians in some of the arrangements, REM transcended the ordinary. "Nightswimming," a wonderful piano ballad with accenting strings provides a lush counterpoint to Michael Stipe's rough vocals. Other standout tracks include a frenetic "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" and the radio friendly and melencholy "Everybody Hurts."

7) Swamp Ophelia by Indigo Girls

Few songs I have ever heard are a beautiful as "The Wood Song" on this release. The production is top notch, yielding an extremely polished work. To top it all off, guest vocalists Jane Siberry and the Roches sing backing vocals on some tracks.