SXSW 2017: Whitney Rose

If there's one segment of the music business that seems to be surging, ie, selling concert tickets and even some records, it's "Americana." You can argue all day about what the definition of that term actually means. Amongst the many Americana discussions I have had at South by Southwest 2017, two stand out. The first was a heated discussion of why the blues should be included in Americana. The second friendly-chat-turned-oddly-personal spat posited that R&B also belonged in Americana.

While the term is admittedly overly broad and in the end could indeed mean just about anything played in the 50 states, I tend it associate it with bands or singer/songwriters with a twang: Buddy Holly to Hank Williams. Of course Elvis Costello and The Rolling Stones both excel at that kind of thing as well, so again the wheel turns and the discussion goes on.

However you define it, this amorphous genre, much like jazz and rock these days, is flush with female singers. Women are bringing much needed new energies to music of all kinds, all over the world, and in Americana, along with Margo Price who has become an overnight breakout, there's Whitney Rose. Currently a resident of Austin but soon to be living in Nashville, Rose can be a bit too much of a screamer as opposed to singer for my tastes, but there's no denying her talent.

On top of having the voice and superb taste in choosing covers—she's partial to singing tunes from Emmylou Harris's early Warner Bros records—Whitney Rose has the look. Her hair, beehive in the back and long tresses down the front, has a definite Loretta Lynnesque look. Thankfully her dresses lean more hippy than classic Nashville.

Perhaps Americana's most far-reaching charm is its inclusiveness. As the climax to her set at the YETI store on South Congress, Rose launched into a very spirited cover of Lesley Gore's 1960s pop hit, "You Don't Own Me" that hit the mark.

Watch for Rose's new full-length record, coming this summer, produced by Raul Malo and featuring The Mavericks as the backing band.

dalethorn's picture

Music, the passion of ordinary folks, has excluded women in inexcusable ways for ages. Virtually all of the best-known classical composers are credited to be men. Given that Bach, Beethoven and others "visited" the streets on occasion to glean ideas from street musicians, one can imagine that women of those times may have contributed far more to the genre than is generally known.

The under-representation of women in testosterone-driven music is understandable to me - no major argument there, however the under-representation in progressive/classic rock of the 1970's isn't much different in my view than what happened in classical music of the Beethoven/Bach eras.

The biggest barrier I see women facing in popular music today is easy to see - they are either solo acts in most cases, or 'fronts' for bands composed of men - for the most part. The only way that will change long-term is when women get interested in the gear and music production, as a hobby to start out, developing into actual jobs.

I've run a youtube channel for headphone reviews mostly, for about 6 years, and the statistics show female viewers at about 9 percent. But that's because I also feature popular cameras. Subtract out the cameras and female representation falls to 4-5 percent. I don't know if that will ever change, and so I don't see women's roles in popular music changing much in the future - i.e. from solo acts with accompaniment to "fronting" bands of male players.

gbroagfran's picture

Such B.S.

Have you forgotten Leslie Gore, Ronnie Spector, Laura Nyro, Carol King, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, L7, Courtney Love and the hundreds of other popular female musicians?

But that dress is reason enough to never ever want to even hear the featured singer. Give me a break.

I have been listening to a lot of Japanese female Death Metal groups lately, myself.

dalethorn's picture

Counter-BS on your part. Subtract out the corporate musicians ("girl-fronted" groups) and it leaves Courtney Love, a reprehensible individual who was the subject of a revealing documentary on the death of Curt Cobain. The man in Riverside who accused her of hiring him to 'off' Cobain - he was found no-longer-alive shortly after.

EDIT: I do recall some Japanese groups like Shonen Knife. Ho-hum.

gbroagfran's picture

L7 is not a corporate band. Or Nina Hagen, Or Bessie Smith. Or Lucinda Williams. Or Lena Lovich, Or Billie Holiday. Or Joan Baez. Or Diamanda Galas. Or Amy X. Neuberg. Or Laurie Anderson. Or Shina Ringo. Or Texacala Jones.Or Alice Coltrane. Or Mistress Kat. Or Esperanza Spaulding. Or Patsy Cline.Or Nina Gerber.

The value of their music is not measured purely as a percentage. There is a lot of music by males, but the best of it is about as good as the best of the female artists.

Shone Knife is the Hello Kitty of Japanese music. I said DEATH METAL.

dalethorn's picture

I know what death metal is, as my collection includes Enslaved and Amon Amarth. I also know every one of those other artists. When you get out of your narrow thinking and understand how women have had (until digital circa 1990) virtually NO control over their music production over the decades, and more importantly(!) their music distribution, then you might catch on. Some people just want to deny reality and say that women have been full participants all along, in every aspect of the business. That's utter nonsense.

gbroagfran's picture

Women have been crapped all over for centuries, but that has nothing to do with their real contributions to intellectual pursuits in general. They have made essential contributions from Mary Shelley to Marie Curie and so on. Not so many, but you can't change the past. Black people, and everyone other than rich White Protestants, (the primary economic group who can buy $250,000 speakers), have been crapped on in our country. We know this and we don't need you to tell us. Human beings are essentially nasty a-holes, what do you expect?

90% of stereo customers, producers, designers, reviewers and retailers are male. Women are not as interested in these particular techie things as men are, that's just the way things are. The few that are, are not chased away, they can go to any stereo store or record store they like. Some companies, like Crystal Cable, are owned by women. In Berkeley, there was a very high-end store owned by a woman.

I bought my wife, who is a seasoned research scientist, a very expensive system for her sole use. Even though she does everything from DNA nanopore sequencing to spectometry, all she wants to know about the stereo is where the on-off switch is. Audio is not the tech that she likes. She has better things to do than to argue which issue of the White Album is the best.

Catch on to what? Do I get to be a miniature YOU if I pay close attention?

dalethorn's picture

Being an angry man has no relevance to the technical discussion here. The issue isn't about anyone being an angry man, or a snowflake whining about the lack of female participation in technology, it's about exploring positive ways to empower the other half of our species, who have been written off as "not interested". I think they are interested - just not interested in butting heads with angry men, or being the subject of a lot of whining and apologies for their alleged apathy.

gbroagfran's picture

I'm leaving for vacation so this must be my last horrid and caveman-like reply.

My mother was a politician and an important person in her city. My wife is a known scientist and educator. She can ride a mountain bike for 8 hours, and surf big waves. They are/were both empowered and respected people. My wife got an A+ in two college semesters of auto repair, (for fun), along with a serious Berkeley PhD, and my mom got her R.N. at age 17. They aren't dumb-ass chicks.

I tried to interest both of them in audio and neither was interested. They liked to listen but do not care about this subject. At this point, I choose to not shove the hobby down her throat, (and my mom is gone). I'm happy enough my wife can surf and ride. I hope your significant other meets your needs as well as mine does. But, nothing will ever make her more interested in stereos than surfboards.

dalethorn's picture

It's not (as I said already) about forcing issues on people. It's about enlightening people. When the Founding Fathers here in the former colonies did not extend the vote to women, it wasn't because they didn't like women or looked down on them - it was because 1) Women were generally busy with other roles and not involved in the things that would inform them for voting, and 2) Because (as an important recent election demonstrated statistically) they tend to vote differently in a way that could cancel out the men's vote. It's an interesting irony that today we don't have these voting restrictions, and 1) is no longer applicable but 2) still is.

It's not my intent to suggest that we force social change artificially, it's my intent to suggest that we remove barriers that are no longer relevant to "gender roles". Once enough women are confident that they can enjoy audiophilia in the same or similar ways as men, without having to butt heads with the likes of Ted Nugent or David Lee Roth on the forums, then participation will go up. It's not that women dislike the hobby, what they mostly dislike is the aggressive behavior of many male forum members.