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The Flash Girls


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Contemporary and traditional and neo-traditional folk with a Gothic and sometimes comic sensibility.

Status:

Most recent (possibly final) album, Play Each Morning Wild Queen (2001)

See also:

Wikipedia on The Flash Girls

Comparisons:

No one is quite doing what they are with their stripped-down Gothic folk sound and their combination of lovely songs and amusing, sometimes silly lyrics. The closest is Silly Sisters. (Neile)

Covers/own material:

They do a mix of songs and tunes they wrote, songs written by such friends as Neil Gaiman and Jane Yolen, and some traditional material.

General comments:

The Flash Girls are Emma Bull, a fine fantasy & science fiction writer and editor, who is also a member of the band Cats Laughing, and Lorraine Garland, fine fiddle player and former/sometimes member of the band Morrigan. So, yes, it's acoustic music. The Flash Girls' style is hard to pin down. Celtic, folk, gothic, quirky. They do traditional tunes—reels and jigs and things like "Star of the County Down" and "Knickerbocker Line." They also do quirky originals of their own and songs written by Neil Gaiman, Jane Yolen, and other cool people. Often joined by Lojo Russo, Steven Brust, and musicians from Boiled in Lead and other fine bands. Many songs have somewhat dark subject matter. Love and Death are recurring themes. Ah, I shouldn't forget to note that they do a number of humorous songs, as well. Some are darkly humorous, such as a song about poisoned tea, but the songs are quirky and fun, dark and haunting. Well-written. (laurel@pobox.com)

Great new folky duo stuff with a traditional flavour. Real people music. I agree that they're difficult to describe. They do dark folk, some traditional songs, some funny songs. I think their music is Gothic in its interests—death, love, life. Kinda like some of those traditional songs about mothers killing their children, or jealous sisters killing one another. But funny, too. I also suspect that they're even better live than on disc. Though their voices are both good, they're not very polished, but that's part of the charm of their music—that and their wicked sense of humour. (Neile)

Recommended first album:

Either of them if you can find them! (Neile)

Recordings:


The Return of Pansy Smith and Violet Jones

Release info:

1993—Spin Art, a division of SteelDragon Press (both no longer exist)—SA3C

Availability:

out of print and hard to find used

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans of folk music who like the idea of Gothic folk or the writers involved in the project

Group Members:

Emma Bull—guitar and vocals, also kazoo, washboard, spoons, mouthbow
The Fabulous Lorraine Garland—fiddle and vocals

Guest artists:

Robin Adnan Anders—darabouka, riq
Steven Brust—doumbek
Todd Menton—tin whistle, bodran
Adam Stemple—whip, mandolin, lap steel, guitar, piano, door, keyring, Arabic
Drew Miller—bass, dulcimer
John Sjögren—voice of Rodan
Earl E. Mammal—keyring, Appalachian

Produced by:

Adam Stemple

Comments:

They do a reworking of Emma's song "Signal to Noise" (which was featured in her novel War for the Oaks and in many publications since, and on a Cats Laughing album) that is very lovely. They perform the beautiful song "Death on Hennepin" by John Van Orman. And, well, they do five songs that were written or co-written by Neil Gaiman (yes, the same Neil Tori Amos talks about, author of fine books and the Sandman comics and all that stuff—all around cool guy). Neil also wrote an "afterword" for the liner notes. The songs also vary from really really pretty to quite humorous. And, well, as is to be expected from this crew, most of the songs are about love and/or death. (It's a running joke at their shows, people yell out that they want a song about love or death, and Emma & Lorraine say "good, that's all we know" or words to that effect.) (laurel@pobox.com)

Maurice and I

Release info:

1995—Fabulous Records, Box 8980, Minneapolis, MN 55408, U.S.A., fabrecords@aol.com—fcd 001

Availability:

Has just been reissued

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans of folk music who like the idea of Gothic folk or the writers involved in the project

Group members:

Emma Bull—guitar and vocals
Lorraine Garland—fiddle and vocals

Guest artists:

Adam Stemple (Boiled in Lead)—guitar, Wurlitzer, duck
Lojo Russo—mandolin, bass, additional vocals
Drew Miller-dulcimer, kugelhorn
Steven K. Z. Brust—doumbek
Earl E. Mammal—kugelhorn
Betsy Stemple—tullyphone
Nicole LeCorgne—doumbek, shekere, tambourine, flabby tambourine
John R. Burr—piano, Wurlitzer
Leo Whitebird—dobro, lap steel
Todd Menton—fender electric 12-string
Robin Whitebird—cello
Frank Runyon—electric guitar
Adamo Maturinin Belligeroso—conductor
Drunken Male Chorus—additional vocals
John Sjögren—return of Rodan
Stephanie Murray—angel voices

Produced by:

Adam Stemple

Comments:

What a duo these two are! You know why Lorraine Garland is simply called The Fabulous Lorraine after hearing their music, especially live. Emma Bull, the other half, could just as well be called The Fabulous Emma, they just click together. (jsutton@rahul.net)

Wow. A wonderful album. Charming. The production and arrangements are stellar The band has matured, and they had the same producer all the way through this album, and it shows. Yes, again, it's gothic folk. Emma sings and plays guitar, Lorraine plays fiddle and sings. Lorraine's vocals have improved dramatically, and they seem used to better effect on this album. Emma's voice gets stronger and stronger, as does her guitar playing. There are a great many guest musicians sitting in. They're all used to wonderful effect. It's a step beyond the first effort (though as you all know, I love the first album). Now to the songs themselves.
     "Prince Charming Comes": a great song to lead off the album, it's been a favorite since The Flash Girls started playing it live. It's delightful song with lyrics by Jane Yolen, music by her son, Adam Stemple. Upbeat musically, lyrically gorgeous—a fairy tale come to life. Anyone who knows Jane Yolen's fiction should know what to expect. Very nice. I love the song itself, and the vocals are right on. It's much like a live performance by The Flash Girls, but with Lojo and Adam showing up to play. :) The mandolin is just perfect, and Emma and Lorraine both sound great.
     "Heathen Horse"(traditional): Something borrowed from Boiled in Lead. An instrumental that rocks (hmm. figures it'd be borrowed from Boiled in Lead). Lorraine's fiddle work is impressive. I love dulcimers, I love this song. I'm usually more lyrically oriented, but The Flash Girls have a knack for doing instrumentals that are lots of fun.
     "Banshee": A glorious song written by Neil Gaiman. It's evolved since I first heard the Flash Girls perform it. It's a haunting song, beautiful lyrically and musically. Slide guitar, piano, and other instruments add to the mix. It builds delightfully. This version is amazing. So full-bodied. Perfectly arranged. Yet the focus is still Emma & Lorraine's vocals. It's darn near a perfect Flash Girls song, in some respects.
     "Neil's Reel/Star of the County Down": I really like "Neil's Reel" (by Lorraine) a lot. It's one that sticks with me. Lorraine's fiddle work impresses me (as it usually does). It segues very nicely into "Star of the County Down," which has long been a fave traditional tune of mine. Emma's vocals are gorgeous. Of course, I often prefer it when Emma sings in her lower register, which she does in this one (though it does jump around, but works great). It's always a Good Thing to have Lojo Russo play bass.
     "A Girl Needs A Knife": I liked it upon first listen, but didn't have time to really absorb it. Now, I have. It's a Flash Girls song—I can't imagine anyone else performing it. I like the song (but hey, I'm a girl who likes knives). Lorraine's vocals have grown so much since The Flash Girl's started out. Some people use superlatives when talking about Emma's voice, but Lorraine's has a quality that is very endearing. And, of course, it meshes well with Emma's. The vocals of each are showcased (and downplayed) in just the right places on this album, if that makes sense. It's charming, dark, lovely. Musicianship is strong, it's very nice, very pretty, very cool.
     "Yeti": Heehee. This is so fun. It's cute and funny and punny. The mood and tone is so much that of a black and white film, of the old days. Pre-talkies. With the piano and vocal accompaniment. I laugh heartily at the song and think it's swell. A very fun track. The piano is right on.
     "Amaryllis": This song wowed me when I first heard it. It was my favorite song on the album for a bit, now it's tied with a bunch of songs. Is gorgeous. Talking of the contradiction of finding an amaryllis in the Minnesota climate. "crazy wind blows across the land / african drum in an irish band" makes me smile. Very upbeat, for some reason it reminds me of the subdudes. Great fiddle, percussion, and such. Nice.
     "Elvira in Paris": It's a very pretty waltz, and this is a very pretty arrangement. Fine fiddle instrumental written by Lorraine.
     "Twa Bonny Maidens": It's pretty, and reminds me of the last album's "What Will We Do". Guitar work in general is nice, the fiddle is very fitting. Nice arrangement. It's currently my least favorite track on the album, but that may have more to do with it coming after "Elvira in Paris" which is another slow pretty song, and before "Mike's Magic," an instrumental. I'm weird that way. :) I still like it lots, so if it's my least favorite, that tells you something...
     "Mike's Magic": Reel, jig, uh, something like that. It's notable for the odd bagpipe effects at the end of it. Yes, something weird happens at the end of this song. Must be heard to be uh, appreciated. :) A fun, upbeat instrumental. Energetic fiddling. Then the drunken male chorus comes in, and this bizarre bagpipe rendition of "Scotland the Brave". I just don't understand. It's fun.
     "Me & Dorothy Parker": Wow. It's an Alan Moore song. Anyone familiar with his work will know what I mean. Dark, witty, precise. It's very Dorothy, as well. I love the vocal effect of having Emma mostly speak the song, with Lorraine's vocal fuzzed in the background. Very cool. Then the very pretty chorus. Describing this song won't do it justice. Unique. Fun. Fans of Dorothy Parker and/or Alan Moore must hear this one.
     "November Song": This is by Mark Henley, and it's one of my all-time favorite songs. It first came to my attention when Emma sang it at music parties. I love it. I'm biased. It's one of those perfectly written songs. I'm accustomed to hearing Emma sing it. I don't think I'd ever heard the song with fiddle, Lorraine adds just the right strains, very nice. I'm so glad the Flash Girls recorded this.
     I like the album. Muchly. It's spiffy and cool and if you don't have it yet and haven't ordered it already—order it, buy it, try it on for size and if it doesn't quite fit you, that's okay—I'm sure you know someone it'll fit. Yes, it's a quirky dark folky trad album. Better than the first album, this one is easier to get into, I think. The other took time to grow on me. I'm tempted to say this album isn't as "funny"— but it has it's moments. It's a solid album, with a good balance of upbeat songs, slow pretty songs. Dark, humor, truth. (laurel@pobox.com)


Play Each Morning Wild Queen

Release info:

2001—Fabulous Records, Box 8980, Minneapolis, MN 55408, U.S.A.

Availability:

See Fabulous Records' website for availability

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of fun folk

Group members:

The Fabulous Lorrain, Duchess of Hazard—vocals, violin
Colonel Emma Bull—vocals, guitar, washboard, spoons

Guest artists:

Robin Adnan Anders—drums
Adam Stemple—bass, keyboard, lead guitar Pelé—volcano
Lojo Russo—bass, mandolin, additional backing vocals
John "Big Sexy" Sjogren—Indian shaker
Leo Whitebird—dobro, bushmill congas, bass
Steven K. Zoltan Brust—rik, dumbek
Armitage Shanks—accordion, marvelous hand clapping
Earl E. Mammal—marvelous hand clapping
Todd Menton—tin whistle, mandolin
Anne "Whirling Dervish" Bobby—additional vocals, ghost vocals, cacophany
Dot "The Reverend" Bull—additional vocals, cacophany
The Tim Malloys (Adam Stemple, Neil Johnston, John "Big Sexy" Sjogren)—drunken male chorus
Gwenda "Mad Bucket" Bond, Beth "Ben and Ali's Mom" Fleisher, Mary "What a blast" Gaiman, Holly "Teen Angst" Gaiman, Kirsten "What am I DOING here" Johnston—cacophany

Produced by:

Adam Stemple

Comments:

Another fine offering from the fabulous Flash Girls and their fantastic friends. Delightful, dark, funny, and fine musicianship displayed throughout. And the sense of fun is wickedly infectious. (Neile)

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DISCLAIMER: Comments and reviews in the Ectophiles' Guide are excerpted from the ecto mailing list or volunteered by members of the list. They are the opinions of music enthusiasts, not professional music critics.

Entry last updated 2012-05-18 18:27:49.
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