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BBG Doesn’t Beat Around the Bush

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By Tim Newman

Let’s not beat around the bush — this talented trio of female multi-instrumentalists gives a voice to out-and-proud lesbian feminism. We’ll avoid the obvious comparison to Ani DiFranco and the like. With that said, “Lake of Dreams,” the second release from local favorite Big Bad Gina, is an all right album.

The album begins with a night-club duet between Renée Janski’s keyboards and Melodie Griffis’ guitar. The three-part harmony of Janski, Griffis, and Jori Costello and the occasional French lyric elevate this song beyond a thinly veiled metaphor for lesbian sex into a tight, loungy dance number.

“Oh What a Happy Day” is where it really starts to get cheesy by melding that bassline with rhythmic breathing. But then it explodes into the chorus commanding you to “Celebrate!” with the three-part vocal harmony similar to Norwegian band Katzenjammer’s “A Bar in Amsterdam.” The best part of the song was the end — not because it was ending, but because the vocal harmonies sounded like the Beatles’ earlier stuff. You know, all cheerful.

In this jaunty, banjo-tinged everyman song, BBG features Janski on banjo and fiddle and Costello with my favorite 1-5 bassline. “Canoe Built For Two” features, yep, another great three-part vocal harmony. And yodeling! Not mountain yodeling, but more a cowboy style. It’s very impressive, yet still full of cheese.

“Hunger,” a ’97 hit by Janis Ian, is a chill, acoustic love song. The stripped production gives a desperate feel to the singer and guitar player, Costello, making it the best song on the album so far.

The next track, “Butch Wytch,” is carried by Griffis’ awesome bassline, Janski’s straight-from-the-’90s keyboard playing, and Costello’s first appearance on drums (on this album), creating a spooky bed of instrumentation to lay the eerie, creeping vocals on. The lyrics cater to BBG’s specific fan following of confident women. Before heading into the second chorus, Janski’s puts on her rap hat and all but emulates the love child of Vanilla Ice and Jemaine Clement.

“You Don’t Love Me Anymore” sounds oddly similar to Zooey Deschanel’s band She & Him, minus the Him. Griffis performs vocally in a Sinatra style and gives an excellent show of her sax skills. Forgoing the in-your-face attitude for a more subdued and easily accessible style, “You Don’t Love Me Anymore” is the best song on the album.

Guest drumming for most of this album, Michael Adkins lays down a sweet groove on the seventh track, “Freedom Connection.” This minimalistic, rhythm laden track has multi-layered vocals from the trio that bring to mind the confrontational awareness of NYC hip-hop duo Dead Prez. Again, the end of the song is the most impressive part, with all vocal harmonies weaving in and out of each other.

The straight-up rockin’ “Picture This” is another stand-out track. It starts out fairly straight forward, then unexpectedly drops into a half-time pre-chorus before rocking into the chorus with another great three-part vocal harmony. Lyrically, this song is generic, but it does make clever comparisons between the subject’s life choices and a camera.

“Set Me Free,” a cookie-cutter blues song that the Blues Brothers would have only performed on an off night, again features a stellar vocal performance and the only self-referential name drop on the album. This song ends exactly how you expect it to — just wait.

The second cover on the album, “Drive” by Melissa Ferrick is almost as bad as listening to Brett Michaels or Mötley Crüe sing about their junk. Although I prefer this over some ‘80s cock-rock, the raunch-factor could be high enough to turn away most mainstream listeners. This bass and drum jam drags on for six and a half minutes.

Finally, the album closer, “Hidden Spring” is about, you guessed it, lesbian sex. A down tempo groove keeps this song rolling along until the upbeat, worldly influenced ending. Delivered with their signature cheese, the last minute of the album sounds like a Public Service Announcement for the spiritual empowerment of women along with what must be BBG’s personal ideals.

With solid performances all around and a strong message, these women definitely know what they’re doing. While there may be no marketing guru at work, there is obviously a target audience. Overall, Big Bad Gina’s newest release, “Lake of Dreams,” gets 3.5 out of 5. Check out their website, bigbadgina.com, for more information.


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