Music Monday :: my thoughts on Woman to Woman

2 Feb

So this one… well, apparently Esmé Patterson has worked with Anaïs Mitchell, specifically on her Hadestown album that I absolutely adore, but that’s not why I’m giving this a listen.  The songs are written to explore the woman’s side of famous songs about, well, said women.  And that is fascinating to me.  So here we go.

“Valentine” (a response to Elvis Costello’s “Alison”).  I think I’m going to want to give this album a listen with the lyrics up someday.  It seems important.  Patterson has a really cute voice, but I’m not picking up every single word.  And it feels more important here because of the premise, which I think is conceptually amazing.  And it’s also a sort of boppy kind of song, and that’s fun.

“Never Chase a Man” (a response to Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”).  This is such a kiss-off to the original material, and I love the approach this takes, Jolene empowering the original song’s narrator.   You know, it’s funny because I’m used to the Jack White version of the original song, which doesn’t change any of the pronouns and therefore uh, doesn’t have the same vibe as the original entirely, but — I really like this answer.  I also really like Patterson’s way of popping some of her high notes.

“Oh Let’s Dance” (a response to the Kinks’ “Lola”).  “I believe that a conversation about the experience of being a woman must include everyone that also identifies as a woman,” Patterson said in an interview.  Oh, that’s nice.  “I keep my secrets, what you see is what you get.”  Also, the refrain of “don’t make me sit alone and drink champagne.”

“Tumbleweed” (a response to Townes Van Zandt’s “Loretta”).  “And I keep my dancing shoes on long after you’ve gone.”  I confess I haven’t actually heard some of these original songs, so I’m missing a lot of the context clues, but they’re fun as hell to listen to.

“What Do You Call a Woman?” (a response to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”).  Oh, that’s a bit more of a rock and roll guitar sneaking in.  “The act of loving can create another.  Call me what you want but let him call you his father.  Ain’t I your lover?”  All of these are repeated twice over, but — those are the sentiments.  “So what do you call a woman when she’s lying in your bed?  If you make love, ain’t she your lover?”  These are startlingly sound points and startlingly sound rebuttals of classic tunes.

“The Glow” (a response to the Beach Boys’ “Caroline, No”).  This also feels like a tonally appropriate response.  This matches a Beach Boys song well, while still having its own modern twist that’s so appropriate for what Patterson is doing.

“Louder Than the Sound” (a response to the Band’s “Evangeline”).  A sad nostalgic waltz of sorts.  This is one of the ones I don’t know the original to, at least consciously, but this version… well.  “I curse you with all the fire in my blood.”  It seems full of genuine sentiments that are important.

“Bluebird” (a response to the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”).  Of all the songs on the response list, I know this one the best, and the response is a different sort, I feel like.  It’s not a song about romance being responded to, it’s just — a song, describing a character who’s much stronger and much less sad than she seems to outsiders.  Gently repeating notes, a tone of general optimism, it’s really rather uplifting.

“A Dream” (a response to Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene”).  One article describes Patterson’s approach to this song as more tongue-in-cheek and I can see that.  “Heaven’s not where I will be, so wake up, wake up darling” and all that business.  It’s dreamy in a 1950s sort of way.

“Wildflower” (a response to Bob Dylan’s “To Ramona”).  “Back when I was changing like the weather.”  Gosh, that’s pretty.  These directly address the topics of some songs, but more vaguely they address the way that men treat women, the boxes men (and other women) put women into boxes to deal with them more simply.

–your fangirl heroine.

unsung hero


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