International Women's Day 2022

by Kevin Wierzbicki

International Women's Day, a time to celebrate women's rights and a gender-equal world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination, falls this year on March 8. Positive change is being achieved by women in all walks of life, including those who work in cultural arenas, and here today we honor the work of women of the musical arts. These are some of our favorite recent woman-made album releases.

Nina Simone - Little Girl Blue, The Montreux Years

It's only fitting that we start our International Women's Day piece with Nina Simone; in addition to her talents at singing, songwriting and piano playing, the late star also had a passion for fighting for civil rights. These two albums come from very different eras; Little Girl Blue, originally recorded for the vaunted Bethlehem label in 1959, finds a young Simone tackling mostly classics, like a swinging version of Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo," Count Basie's "Good Bait," the Rogers/Hammerstein chestnut "You'll Never Walk Alone" and the delicate Rogers title track. The effort ends with a Simone original, the strutting "Central Park Blues." The Montreux Years is a 2-CD set of live recordings committed to tape in Montreux, Switzerland, with the first disc featuring 15 cuts recorded on various dates spanning 1976-90. Among the standards are self-penned gems like the frenetic "African Mailman," and "Four Women," a cut that could be the theme for International Women's Day. The second disc features 14 songs that were all cut on June 16, 1968, many of which find Simone honoring the pop music of the day as she interprets two Bee Gees cuts and "House of the Rising Sun."

April March - In Cinerama

This title was originally released on vinyl only for Record Store Day 2021, but it sold so well that Omnivore has now released it on CD with two bonus tracks. March has an incredible resume; she's worked extensively in France and released numerous albums there and she's also collaborated with the likes of Brian Wilson, Jack White, Jonathan Richman and Ronnie Spector. So expect sublime pop music here, from the jaunty "Lift Off" to the psych rocker "Ride or Divide" to the sweet daydream of "Down the Line." Bonus cuts are the charmingly understated "Goodbye" and the exceptionally cheery "Friends Peculiar." Guest players include Tony Allen and Petra and Rachel Haden.

Sarah Borges - Together Alone

Borges begins this album with "Wasting My Time," a cut that sounds like Sheryl Crow-meets-Neil Young and that references the loneliness brought on by pandemic lockdown. The Crow comparison holds up throughout as Sarah's voice is similar and her songwriting is strong and prone to catchy hooks, with the popping "Rock and Roll Hour" and "You Got Me on the Boat" being of particular note. "Pretty Christine" has the twang and feel of a Dave Edmunds/Nick Lowe production while closing cut "Together Alone" is an aching reflection on love lost.

Julie Christensen - 11 from Kevin: Songs of Kevin Gordon

Christensen has most recently been heard from as a member of Divine Horsemen with their album Hot Rise of an Ice Cream Phoenix. Here she performs more or less in the same style of Divine Horsemen as she honors Nashville songwriter Kevin Gordon with a superb set featuring cuts like the slow and ominous "Fire at the End of the World," the rocking Americana of "Find My Way" and the indictment of television evangelists, megalomaniac politicians and others that populate "Gloryland." Pedal steel weeps in the background as Julie sings a cool medley featuring the old school country of "Heart's Not in It" and the Americana of "Down to the Well." The combination of Gordon's strong songwriting skills and Christensen's emotive vocal stylings will have many calling this effort a masterpiece, and rightfully so.

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