Another new band to me is The Damsels. This very young band consists of Rachel Hall on vocals and electric guitar, Timmy P does drums and bongos and Sabrina bring their music to life. Their influences include all kinds of killer females in the mainstream. Their music is a combination of The Pretenders, some Sheryl Crow. And a touch of Bonnie Raitt. They released their debut disc a couple of months back...I liked everything I heard. "Ashes" from The Damsels is available now. They celebrated the release at The Red House Tavern in Canton
“Ashes” 12 tracks of indie/folk rock from The Damsels. The Damsels have some powerful down and dirty bluesy rock with cool vocals and groovy tunes. The band has brought together influences from Melissa Etheridge, Susan Tedeschi, Janis Joplin, The Indigo Girls, The Pretenders, Sheryl Crow, Tracy Chapman and Bonnie Raitt and put them altogether into their own eclectic sound. After listening to this album you will remember the Damsels as a band with a very fun catchy groove.
The Damsels Give Lesbian Music Fans Something to Sing About
by Sharon Hadrian, August 7, 2006
The queer music scene is filled with folksy-rock acts, from Ani DiFranco to the Indigo Girls, and joining the musical fray are The Damsels, a female-fronted group from Baltimore. The band are new on the block, in a sense; they just released their debut album, Ashes, on May 27th. But they're no kids, having toiled on the Baltimore club scene for years. Baltimore Gay Life has even called them "local heroes."
The essence of The Damsels is in blending, whether it's their hybrid blues-rock-roots style, or the merging of two solo guitarists into one cohesive unit. Formed in 2003, the three-piece band consists of out lesbian singer/guitarists Rachel Hall and Sabrina, and drummer Timmy P, whom Sabrina describes as "a straight guy with a lesbian heart."
The band began as an amalgamation of solo acts; Sabrina "stole" Timmy from another band, and both knew Rachel from the local music scene. When Sabrina developed some neck problems that necessitated a sit-in guitarist, she invited Rachel into the group. The trio began playing full-time as The Damsels a few years ago, and they haven't looked back on their solo careers since.
The lead-up to the current band has been a long one, with over 40 years of musical experience between the two female leads.
Sabrina started singing at birth, and guitar naturally followed as an accompaniment instrument at age eight. Somewhere during that time she also figured out she was gay. "I knew when I had a crush on Jodie Foster when I was four," she says. "I just always knew I liked girls. I knew I shouldn't, but I just did."
Rachel had a similar musical upbringing, but was a bit slower coming to terms with her sexuality. She was singing onstage by age four, and began playing guitar before she reached her teens. By age 13 she was writing songs--including the current Damsels hit "Oblivious"--but it would be years before Rachel realized she was gay. "I've always been very curious and very scared, but I think I finally figured it out my first year of college," she says. "Being a guitar player was definitely an arena in which I could display my masculinity without being ridiculed for it. Also, I was assumed gay as a solo artist long before I came out or knew I was gay, but I liked it."
What has resulted from this personal and musical journey are songs of maturity, and Ashes represents the band's well-traveled lives. The album is filled with songs of experience, whether in love, loss, or just life. "For me, heartache is a number one inspiration. [It] seems like when I'm going through a personal crisis, the music just kinda comes out," says Sabrina. "Not just heartbreak but heartache--arguments, personal growth, that sorta thing. [When I'm not broken-hearted], I don't write."
In fact, the band's music mirrors their personal lives in a lot of respects. Sabrina and Rachel are a couple both on and off stage, and many of the songs on The Damsels album have been written for or about each other.
One of the most powerful tracks, "The Crying Tree," is a song of longing and heartache, with a catchy chorus rising above a melodic lead guitar. Songs like "Ashes" and "Dangerous Curves" have similar themes, but with very different musical executions; the former a haunting ode to unrequited love, the latter a Melissa Etheridge-esque acoustic ballad.
It's difficult to name the best track on such a diverse album, with 12-bar blues numbers like "C7" situated next to slow acoustic love songs like "The Words," which Rachel freely admits makes her cry. The Damsels music runs the gamut from radio-friendly pop-rock songs to country and blues jams, all pulled together by a tremendous sense of musicality.
In fact, their guitar-driven music and strong vocals at times draw favorable comparisons to Melissa Etheridge, whom they also frequently cover at live shows. Sabrina, in particular, tends to play and sing in the style of the iconic singer (as if her 12-string Adamas guitar didn't give her away).
Rachel and Sabrina share songwriting and singing duties on the album, and both of their voices are powerful and well-trained. Sabrina is the more bluesy singer of the duo, while Rachel's voice is more introspective and soft (but with the ability to wail). She's also the more political, snippier singer, with sarcasm flowing freely through some of her songs. " It's funny that the shy one has the more sarcastic lyrics and the bigmouth has the sensitive lyrics," kids Rachel.
The musicality and talent on Ashes is unmistakable, but lesbian music fans tired of the same old generic love songs will also find solace in many of the lyrics, which are written with either gender-neutral or feminine pronouns. "I normally write in the 'I' or 'she' person," says Sabrina. "Rachel is more third person in the past, but [her] new stuff uses female pronouns. We want a good gay following and a good straight following, and so far it hasn't been a problem."
Perhaps the most blatantly gay song is "Dirty Little Nice Girl," with overtly lesbian lyrics like, "Dirty little nice girl/Crooked in a straight world/Where your mommy and daddy, they really want a wedding/But not one to a girl..."
With an album full of girl-loving songs, The Damsels have had to deal with being a gay band in a straight bar world, but it hasn't been as bad as one might expect.
"Of course, The Damsels have had the few 'dyke' comments in the bar on occasion, and I've been fired from a few gigs for being a lesbian and bringing a 'lesbian crowd'--the typical 'I don't want my bar turning into a dyke bar' reason," says Sabrina. "But we're pretty lucky. We've even won over a few of the assholes--people [who] were making 'dyke' comments and by the end of the night they were big fans. You just never know."
But The Damsels are not simply another lesbian bar band, having played with national touring artists such as Melissa Ferrick and LP. "That was our first original gig, opening for LP," says Sabrina. "Oh my god. We only had eight originals and had barely played them. But LP is awesome. She's a sweet person. We wanna open for her again in the future, and we'd love to tour with her if we can."
A few years later and with their new CD to peddle, the band is showing no signs of slowing down or lowering their expectations. They hope to branch out from Baltimore a bit more in the future, playing gigs wherever they can, labels be damned. But they haven't forgotten their roots. "I'm from the old school where you tour and promote the hell out an album," comments Sabrina. "We think clubs sometimes match up gay or girl acts for a better draw, and we agree with it. We love playing with other lesbian or girl bands. It's cool."
On the lookout for a tour and support wherever they can find it, the one thing experience has taught The Damsels is never to fall complacent and settle. "We did get an offer to be on a Christian rock label the other week," laughs Sabrina. "They said they didn't care about the lesbian thing, [that it] would be a good diversity thing. It was a youth-oriented project, but not for us."
Learn more about The Damsels and purchase their CD at thedamsels.net
Gay rock bands are not the oxymoron they were once considered to be. From Pansy Division to Jinx Titanic, from Team Dresch to Erase Errata, the GLBT community is not only producing an amazing number of queer rockers, but they are also out and proud in their support of the scene.
Kevin Cahoon and Ghetto Cowboy don’t waste a minute when it comes to both rocking out and being out on “Doll” (Anchor C). “Fashionista” and “Bitch” are driven by sheer punk rock energy and attitude, while “Good Time Gone Bad” has the kind of theatrical texture one might expect from someone who has appeared as Hedwig in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” “Mr. Curious” is a kick-in-the-balls-to-the-wall rocker that ought to send more than a few bi-curious boys packing, while Cahoon’s cover of “Could I Have This Dance” puts a queer punk spin on the old Anne Murray country classic.
Tired of waiting for the new Scissor Sisters disc? So am I. Thankfully we have “State Of The Ark” (Virgin) by The Ark to hold us over. The 11 tracks on The Ark’s latest (and first domestic) disc certainly owe a debt to the glam rock scene, but they also have a contemporary electro vibe that transcends the need for nostalgia. Opening cut “This Piece of Poetry is Meant to do Harm” is a good example of the way The Ark blends the past with the present with an ear cocked towards the future. “Rock City Wankers” rocks on in an electro vein as “Clamour For Glamour” polishes up the glitter. The bubbly “One of Us is Gonna Die Young” belies its message and “Let Me Down Gently” has a Fischerspooner vibe to it.
That’s transgender drummer Rikki Bates you hear keeping time on the six songs of Mascara’s new EP “Spell” (Mr. Fibuli). At turns heavy (“Great Divide,” “Percy’s Revenge”) and heavenly (“Frostbite,” “Time Is A Lie”), if you’re concerned about your Mascara running, don’t play this disc at full volume.
Speaking of drummers, Timmy P is the token straight member of Baltimore’s The Damsels, supplying what lesbian singer/acoustic guitarist/bassist Sabrina describes as the trio’s “pumping beat.” Sabrina and singer/electric guitarist Rachel Hall supply the queer factor on the band’s debut album “Ashes” (thedamsels.net). You can hear the influence of the Indigo Girls and Melissa Etheridge, but The Damsels still manage to get their distinctive musical personality across on songs such as “You Wanna,” “Dangerous Curves” and my personal favorite, “The Fighting Thing.”
I still often refer to the song “Never Getting Married” from Roy’s 2004 disc “Big City Sin and Small Town Redemption” as one of the most beautiful and moving songs about gay marriage ever written or recorded. Out and visible openly gay member Brian Cook (also of These Arms Are Snakes) and his fellow band-mates continue to stretch the limits of the alternative country sound on “Killed John Train” (Lujo). Beginning with the plaintive “Reno, I’m Coming Home” (have you ever heard such a mournful harmonica?) and continuing through the Wilco-like “In My Defense,” the humorous drive of “Jesus In A Trans Am” and “Hotel Congress,” Roy’s latest is one of the most unforgettable discs of the year.
When a band releases a singles compilation, it can signify a number of different things, including the cessation of a relationship with a record label. In the case of Placebo, featuring bisexual Brian Molko and gay Stefan Olsdal, the trio had already moved to Astralwerks when their 2004 collection “Once More With Feeling” was released. Their latest, “Meds” (Astralwerks), finds them working their same narcotic and addictive effect on 13 edgy tracks that rock as hard as anyone else out there, but still manage to defy categorization.
The Damsels will be playing at the Colonial Inn in Upperco on Oct. 7, Leadbetters in Fells Point on Oct. 28, and Carpenter Street Saloon in St Michaels on Oct 29. For more information, check them out at www.thedamsels.net.
New bands are born every day in the world of rock music, and some births are more serendipitous than others. Such is the case with the Damsels, a two-year-old, three-piece act that graced this year's Pride stage and that calls the Fells Point bar Leadbetters its home away from home. Drummer Timmy P and guitarist/songwriters Rachel Hall and Sabrina are gearing up to go into the studio this fall to record their first CD.
Playing against the drummer stereotype, Timmy arrives for the interview early and begins to trace the beginnings of the Damsels, when he met Sabrina at an audition for his previous band.
"We didn't have a singer, and Sabrina answered the ad, luckily enough," Timmy says. "I wasn't particularly happy in that situation, and I just felt a click with her, and she felt the same thing. Later that night, she was packing up to leave and I said, ‘hang out.’ We went outside and I said, you're definitely going to make the band. But if you join this band, in about a month, you're going to want to leave. And sure enough, it was about a month later. It worked out great. That was the beginning."
That fateful night is now five years in the past, and Sabrina and Timmy kept playing together. The mutual admiration between the musicians is still clear.
"I have never heard a drummer that can make the drums sing like he does," says Sabrina. "He can play drums with me singing, and the audience could swear that I was playing guitar, or that Rachel was playing guitar, or that some other musical instrument other than the drums was going on, because he can just make them talk that much."
"He knows me better than I know myself," she continues. "We have this psychic connection that's just weird. I'll just think something and he'll do it. When I write a song, I know exactly how he's going to play it. And it's been like that since we started playing together."
When Rachel Hall joined on two years ago, she was still finishing college, but the Damsels picture was complete.
"Adding Rachel to the mix changed our sound a lot. I play a 12-string acoustic, and I've always played unplugged. All the gadgets that she uses, I don't even know what they are. She brings the electric to the Damsels. And when she brings the electric, it just goes right into that sound," Sabrina says.
As solo artists, both Rachel and Sabrina played more covers than originals. As a result, the Damsels has an extensive repertoire of cover songs to draw from, while their original songs have a chance to flourish in the band setting.
"Both of us have our own originals that we both wrote separately," Sabrina says. "We've had a couple that we've written since we've been together as a band. As we start playing them together they become Damsels songs. Most of my songs come from some type of heartache. Mine are all very personal. I normally find inspiration when I'm upset about something."
"When I write an original, it's just magic," she continues. "It's like all of a sudden a song just comes out of nowhere. I have no idea where it comes from and some of them I have no idea what they mean when I write them. It feels like magic."
"Rachel has a song called 'Oblivious,'" Sabrina adds. "When she does it acoustic it's this very pretty, slow mellow song, and as soon as we started playing it, it became this totally punk kind of song."
"'Oblivious' is kind of a sarcastic song, It's personal, but it's very sarcastic. It's funny that the shy one has the more sarcastic lyrics and the bigmouth has the sensitive lyrics," laughs Rachel.
The drive of the Damsels has not waned, despite an eight-month hiatus after Sabrina's neck surgery in January of this year. They confess to keeping their gig schedule light through the rest of the year in order to record and to set their sights on playing regional gigs.
"We're planning on recording before the end of the year," Sabrina says. "We're shopping around for a studio, and we're probably going to lay down ten songs. Rachel will do half of them, and I'll do the other half. We've been playing bars for a long time, and I'd like to get out of Baltimore. Get up to Philly and D.C., really promote the CD and stay focused."
Maintaining focus can be a struggle when all the band members are working day jobs in addition to playing multiple weekend shows. But the end result seems to be that the Damsels are tighter as friends, and as a band.
"It's hard to progress and write songs when we're always gigging," says Timmy. "But having (the Damsels) makes it easier to deal with getting up at 6 a.m., knowing that we are doing this."
"Whenever we've played a lot in a row together, I always feel like we're really tight by the end," Rachel adds, "After three nights in a row, we can kind of look at each other. We don’t even have to talk to each other to know where we're going to go. We just kind of get in sync."
"We all do genuinely love each other, not only as musicians, but we're friends. We like to hang out together. We love to play music together. I wouldn't play with anybody else. Before I sang with Rachel I always felt kind of competitive when I tried to sing with somebody else," Sabrina says. "We're not just a band. We're like family."
"This is the first band I've ever been in," says Rachel. "They've both been in bands before, and I feel like the luckiest girl in the whole world that my first band is such a cool band. This is exactly what I want to be doing. I'm in a place where I can do everything I want to do, and I don't feel like I'm being held back."
Gay rock bands are not the oxymoron they were once considered to be. From Pansy Division to Jinx Titanic, from Team Dresch to Erase Errata, the lgbt community is not only producing an amazing number of queer rockers, but they are also out and proud in their support of the scene.
Kevin Cahoon and Ghetto Cowboy don’t waste a minute when it comes to both rocking out and being out on the disc Doll (Anchor C). The “last one picked for the team” also “played with dolls,” but as Cahoon says in the album’s catchy title track, “so what”! “Fashionista” and “Bitch” are driven by sheer punk rock energy and attitude, while “Good Time Gone Bad” has the kind of theatrical texture one might expect from someone who has appeared as Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. “Mr. Curious” is a kick-in-the-balls-to-the-wall rocker that ought to send more than a few bi-curious boys packing. Cahoon’s cover of “Could I Have This Dance” puts a queer punk spin on the old Anne Murray country classic, and “Mirrorball Prophecy,” with guest vocals by Broadway’s Shoshanna Bean, closes the disc on a dramatic, but no less rocking, note.
Tired of waiting for the new Scissor Sisters disc? So am I. Thankfully we have State Of The Ark (Virgin) by The Ark to hold us over. The eleven tracks on The Ark’s latest (and first domestic) disc certainly owe a debt to the glam rock scene, but they also have a contemporary electro vibe that transcends the need for nostalgia. Opening cut “This Piece of Poetry is Meant to do Harm” is a good example of the way The Ark blends the past with the present with an ear cocked towards the future. “Rock City Wankers” rocks on in an electro vain as “Clamour For Glamour” polishes up the glitter. The bubbly “One of Us is Gonna Die Young” belies its message and “Let Me Down Gently” has a Fischerspooner vibe to it. The gorgeous “No End” took me pleasantly by surprise, but album closer “Trust Is Shareware” demonstrated what it is that keeps The Ark afloat.
Veterans of Queercore Blitz, Homo-A-Go-Go, and Ladyfest, among others, queer quartet Triple Crème doesn’t disappoint with its album This Might Hurt (triplecreme.com). The blistering electric guitar work on tracks such as “Brooklyn” and “Hurricane,” delivers a hurt that lingers. But “Team Queen” and “T.N.T.” with their consistent beats could easily inspire more than a few listeners to do more than thrust their fists into the air.
Acoustic-electro duo Nekked, consisting of JC Faust and Michael Flyte, perform five originals and one cover on their self-titled EP. The kilt and leather jacket clad pair dream big on opening track “A Boy Can Dream.” They switch gears on the country-punk of “How Come You Don’t Love Me,” a song about self-love that contains the line “without a doubt/if I could do myself you know I’d never leave the house.” I’m still undecided about the electro version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer,” although the harmonies were pleasing. The synthesizers were far more effective on “Sleeping With The Lights On” and “Breathe.”
That’s transgender drummer Rikki Bates you hear keeping time on the six songs of Mascara’s new EP Spell (Mr. Fibuli). At turns heavy (“Great Divide,” “Percy’s Revenge”) and heavenly (“Frostbite,” “Time Is A Lie”), if you’re concerned about your Mascara running, don’t play this disc at full volume.
Speaking of drummers, Timmy P is the token straight member of Baltimore’s The Damsels, supplying what lesbian singer/acoustic guitarist/bassist Sabrina describes as the trio’s “pumping beat.” Sabrina and singer/electric guitarist Rachel Hall supply the queer factor on the band’s debut album Ashes (thedamsels.net). You can hear the influence of the Indigo Girls and Melissa Etheridge, but The Damsels still manage to get their distinctive musical personality across on songs such as “You Wanna,” “Dangerous Curves,” “Collateral Damage,” “Oblivious,” “Dirty Little Nice Girl,” and my personal favorite, “The Fighting Thing.”
A couple of years after first hearing it, I still often refer to the song “Never Getting Married” from Roy’s 2004 disc Big City Sin and Small Town Redemption as one of the most beautiful and moving songs about gay marriage ever written or recorded. Out and visible openly gay member Brian Cook (also of These Arms Are Snakes) and his fellow band-mates continue to stretch the limits of the alternative country sound on “Killed John Train” (Lujo). Beginning with the plaintive “Reno, I’m Coming Home” (have you ever heard such a mournful harmonica?) and continuing through the Wilco-like “In My Defense.”
This year's Baltimore Pride roster of performers boasts an ambitiously wide range. It's a heady mix of both veterans and rising stars as well as both local and national acts. There is something to suit nearly everyone's palate: piano pop from Rachael Sage and Levi Kreis, hiphop from Tha Pos. Senda, club music from Tiffany, rock from The Damsels, Honeychuck and The Stalking Horses, and post-punk rock from Since.
Dust Off And Dance
Odds are you've made up your mind about Tiffany, even if you were too young to remember when she was the teen queen of the shopping mall. Maybe you think she's a misunderstood genius who managed to swipe Belinda Carlisle's abandoned growl at just the right time. Maybe you consider her a has-been who should just let go of her old friend's hand. There are no real surprises on Dust Off And Dance , which is a solid run of synthesized club tracks. To hear the critics tell it, Tiffany's voice is as strong as ever, but that strength is masked with heavy layers of vocal processing. Perhaps she could take her contemporary Debbie Gibson's lead into exploring a different genre?
The Blistering Sun
If you're like me and you can't really listen to Ani DiFranco so much anymore because her jazz hands have gotten to be a just little too much, you might take a listen to Rachael Sage's latest album. This is a set of shining modern adult piano-based pop songs featuring lush production, sauntering rhythms and passionate, political lyrics. It may be the piano that ensures that all the songs remain distinctly melodic. Perhaps it's the great horn section, but I'm not complaining and neither are her established fans. The CD includes her take on Melissa Ferrick's "Anything Anywhere," and Sage makes the song her own.
Local heroes The Damsels released their album Ashes this year, and it really captures aspects of the bands songs that may get a little lost in the bars where they usually play - especially their vocal harmonies and the cleverness in their lyrics. There's a little something for every mood on the CD, ranging from pensive ballads ("Ashes," "The Crying Tree") to driving raveups ("C7," "Oblivious"). The CD is only a taste of what this trio is like, but the flavor is pretty tasty.
Tha Pos. Senda!,
Message From Da Senda
There's nothing quite like a good female hiphop MC, and it's unfortunate that they tend to be so hard to come by. And it's especially difficult to find one that not only has a great vocal style as well as the substantial rhythms and hooks to make the whole production feel satisfying. Fortunately for us, Chicago-based Tha Pos. Senda fits that bill quite well. Her style is firmly in the same neighborhood as recent Missy Elliott, while her attitude and words recall the early days of Queen Latifah - celebratory, positive and socially conscious.
One of the Ones
Sounding like a much less neurotic Rufus Wainwright, piano-based pop songwriter Levi Kreis explores the pensive side of the heart in this very mellow ten-song cycle. The album at once recalls the soothing-yet-yearning stylings of Norah Jones, but with a gay male lyrical bent. This will be a perfect soundtrack for the next gay soap opera, which ought to come along soon now that Queer As Folk has gone the way of the dodo. Until then, enjoy this CD over brunch on a lonely Sunday morning.
The Stalking Horses
Stalking Horses bandleader Sarah Pinsker is a seasoned veteran of the local songwriter scene, and her band keeps threatening to break the bridle and run wild any old day now. Until then we have their EP to put in our feedbags and chew on. Pinsker is heir to the vocal throne of Concrete Blonde's Johnette Napolitano, and that's clear even before you get to their strong cover of Napolitano's song "Probably Will." With its driving beat and hooky guitar, "Everything Bounces" is one of the more easily memorable local rock songs you're likely to find, and alone is well worth the price of the CD.
Honeychuck rocks pretty hard for a band with an acoustic guitar in it. Comparisons to the Indigo Girls are inevitable given that this is southern-fried guitar pop with female harmony vocals, and that the lead vocalist's voice bears more than a passing resemblance to Amy Ray's. But the band embraces these similarities and finds other ways to set itself apart from its influences; key among which is that they don't seem to possess the ambivalence about rocking out that has always seemed to take the wind out of the Indigo Girls sails. If Honeychuck's stage presence has even a hint of the energy that this CD does, it seems that their show ought to be exciting and satisfying.
Driven by unrelenting guitar fireworks, the five piece Baltimore-based rock band Since rocks the angst like a good rock band really should. Their hybrid of thundering punk and epic grunge fires up the moshpit, even when I'm alone. This is a band with its eyes on the big picture. Featuring the howling vocals of a dreamy-eyed eccentric, and the guitar interchange of a pair of very talented brothers, this little taste of Since suggests that there are even bigger and better things yet to come.