Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Gender Divide?

Amidst all the usual venting of frustration on the MOJO letters page, one particular comment stands out this month. The appearance of Amy Winehouse on last month's end of year cover prompted one reader to highlight that she was the only woman to appear on the cover of the magazine in the whole of 2006-7. 24 months - and the editorial team could find no other female musician worthy of attention? If this means that the readership is predominantly male, as might reasonably be expected, why do men of a certain age not wish to read about female artistry?

I am not an avid fan of blind feminism, but then I am no patriarch either. Whilst neither gender has an innate claim to superiority, I have recently found myself increasingly drawn to the work of female songwriters. Indeed, the likes of Bjork, Feist, Marnie Stern, Susanna, Patricia Barber, Emmylou Harris, kd Lang, Bettye LaVette, Sharon Jones and Sylvie Lewis are among the most exciting singers and songwriters currently at work. Unfortunately, the latter seems to have been afforded next to no coverage in the UK press - even The Word magazine failing to follow the inclusion of one of her tracks on a covermount CD with anything more than a lukewarm review. She's playing at The Fly in London on Wednesday - and her songwriter meets stand-up comic routine is original and entertaining.

Surely the intuitive and sensitive qualities of a songwriter such as Leslie Feist are worthy of greater attention, particularly as she has now had a top ten hit in this country? Gazing into the past - Emmylou Harris is an artist in need of far greater appreciation in her own right - still she is constantly bombarded by questions about her relationship with Gram Parsons. There's recently been greater interest in the work of Vashti Bunyan and Karen Dalton. Also, an excellent compilation of the quite bizarre and unhinged work of Dory Previn is about to hit the stores - well worth a listen!

Perhaps a change will follow in 2008 - the most hyped 'breakthrough' artists this year would appear to be young women - Adele and Laura Marling. Whether or not they are the right examples remains to be seen.

No comments: