Perpetual Change: Reviews and New Music

| Apr 11, 2016

This is going to be a bit of a different column for a change. This month’s offering contains two mini-reviews of new material from trans man singer/songwriter/actor/speaker Ryan Cassata and Rev. Yolanda. Also, the new project by Gwen Stefani, This Is What The Truth Feels Like is reviewed. Sit back and enjoy.

Ryan Cassata

Ryan Cassata

Ryan Cassata

We interviewed Ryan Cassata back in October, 2013, and posted a review of his new album for that year, Jupiter, It Won’t Be Long in November. Originally, the review of his newest single tune, Gender Binary (F____ You) was going to be posted earlier in the year but events such as the passing of David Bowie changed my entire schedule.

Ryan explains that the new tune “…is about transgender and expressing my gender in the ways that I want to even after receiving negative attention for doing so.”

The chorus for the tune is pretty straight forward:

“F____U, F____U, F____U
For tellin’ me to fit inside your gender binary
I won’t fit inside your gender binary.”

Whether or not you have a hard time with a vocalist saying “FU” all the time, the attitude is something none of us can truthfully deny we’ve ever felt.

The YouTube video for the song is just Ryan and an acoustic guitar. But given the lyrics and what they convey, anything else would be a distraction. He’s gained a lot of attention as a live performer, anti-bullying speaker, writer, actor, and filmmaker. He has also performed on the Vans Warped Tour and has been featured in such publications as Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Advocate, The Guardian and Buzz Feed.

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I’ve heard a bit of his newest album, Shine, which really rocks. While his voice is a bit of an acquired taste, it’s the songwriting that presents the real message. (For more information, please check out his website, also Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Instagram, FB, Soundcloud and Tumblr.

Rev. Yolanda

Rev. Yolanda

Rev. Yolanda

I’ve already mentioned in previous columns that Rev. Yolanda is currently working on a new album, Country Gospel Kirtan, Vol. 2. Plus, the success of her song We Are Angels has warranted the release of a CD that contains five different versions of the song, which has become perhaps her best known tune over the years.

She sent me a couple rough mixes of two the next album’s tunes, I Am Blessed, and Hush Of Heaven. Since these are rough studio mixes and not the finished product, I don’t want to give too much away. However, I will say that I Am Blessed is a kind of Latin jazz feel and is musically kind of new ground for her. I didn’t expect to hear something like this from Rev. Yolanda.

Hush Of Heaven is completely different. It starts with a laid back gospel quartet type vocal, then due to great gospel piano playing in the background, almost becomes an old time spiritual. A choir could do this justice.

These two songs really want to make me hear the rest of the project. Rev. Yolanda has been around long enough that she obviously feels comfortable enough to stretch out musically and try some new things. She more than has the talent to play any style she wants and I can’t wait to hear the rest of the project.

Now, for the aforementioned We Are Angels 5 song EP. Rev. Yolanda sent me two versions that I hadn’t heard, since I have all the CDs with the other versions. Both are live, and one is from the Rev. Yolanda The Movie project. The other is a live performance with long time collaborator Robert Urban on electric guitar and harmony vocals. Both are excellent.

Rev. Yolanda will be at the Sidewalk Café, (94 Ave. A, East Village, NYC) on April 17 for another installment of Church With A Two Drink Minimum. Visit her website for more info.

NEW MUSIC

This Is What Truth Feels Like by Gwen Stefani

stefani04-16Gwen Stefani is of course best known for her work with the band No Doubt and more recently as one of the judges on The Voice. She has released two other solo projects: Love.Angel.Music.Baby and The Sweet Escape. This Is What Truth Feels Like, her third solo outing, definitely will establish her as a vocalist who can fully function as a solo artist as well as a band member.

Stefani is listed as executive producer and works with several different producers, musicians and co-writers throughout the album’s 12 tunes.

There seems to be a minimalist approach to the song structures on a lot of the material. Tunes such as Misery, You’re My Favorite, Truth, and Send Me A Picture have sparse musical arrangements, with Stefani’s voice well balanced but not overpowering the minimal feeling of the material.

She’s already released two singles from the project, Used To Like You (which is dynamic but also fits into the minimalism category), and the highly dance-able rock tune, Make Me Like You (which is also the most radio friendly thing on the project.)

The only other tune that’s really worth noting is the project’s closing track, Rare. Along with the aforementioned single releases, this one track has some of Stefani’s best vocals and definitely the best overall production quality on the entire CD.

No Doubt about it (forgive the pun…couldn’t resist) Gwen Stefani’s new project will definitely solidify her as a solo artist to contend with.

For more information, please check out her website, also Twitter, FB and Instagram.

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Category: Music

About Pam Degroff: Pamela DeGroff been writing for TGForum since the start of 1999. Her humor column, The Pamela Principle, ran until 2005. She started the Perpetual Change music column in May of 1999, and in 2008, Angela Gardner came up with the idea for the Transvocalizers column and put Pam to work on that. Pamela was a regular contributor to Transgender Community News until that magazine's demise. While part of a support group in Nashville called The Tennessee Vals she began writing for their newsletter, and also wrote for several local GLBT alternative newspapers in Tennessee. Pamela is currently a staff reporter for a small town daily paper in Indiana, and is also a working musician.

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