Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sonia Tetlow -- inRetro

The tagline for this blog is "music like your life depends on it." As I pointed out in my first post, the only music worth paying attention to is made by people who live to create it -- regardless of genre. But sometimes, our lives depend on the music other people create. And that's my relationship to Sonia Tetlow's work.

She released a retrospective on December 21 (on 12:21, heh heh) and it's FREE and you should really download it. Right. Now. (PS - I can see which links you go to from this page, and if you don't at least click on this one you'll legitimately hurt my feelings.) In addition to music that costs ZERO DOLLARS you can also download a beautiful artist's statement which is highly recommended reading, music nerd or not.

Turn that frown upside down and download me!

I first encountered Sonia Tetlow as the bassist for Cowboy Mouth (roughly 2004 to 2007, I believe.) I was just getting into riot grrl at the time, and the combination of some serious sister power with my favorite band was a godsend (I was similarly excited about Sonia's predecessor, Mary Lasseigne.) But it turned out that Sonia had an extensive catalog, which I eagerly devoured.

 Her first album, Spit, isn't like anything I've heard before or since. A lot of folks out there compare her to Patti Smith, but I feel like she stands in a class of her own. She came out swinging and hasn't stopped since. Spit is represented on this album by "Anti" and "Beggar, Queen, and Thief." Her second album, Swerve is another manifesto of raw energy and carefully exercised talent. 

That being said, her music from this period is not easy listening. There are some songs, like "Green," that still scare me a little. The intensity of emotion presented in these songs is startling. So you might not like all of her songs at first, but I promise that if you keep listening you will. 

Since my discovery of Sonia's music coincided with my later teenage years, it shouldn't be surprising that I was facing some rather tumultuous times. And that's what I mean by depending on music for survival. It's pretty obvious from the music that Sonia has been/was going through a lot, and the booklet (read it. Really.) attests to that. Without digressing into the personal too much, I was going through my own series of trials. I heard "Open" on a bootleg of an acoustic concert with Cowboy Mouth guitarist John Thomas Griffith and then-guitarist Vance DeGeneres (yes, her brother.) Music really does have the power to save, and the second that song was over I knew it was time to accept myself and come out to myself.


I've taken Sonia (or her music, at least) with me to college, on airplanes, to lonely mountain roads in Japan. When I need to listen to something that helps keep me sane, it's her work that I turn to. 

The two photos on the album cover were taken ten years apart, and I think the differences in the photos are indicative in the changes in her music. To conclude, here's a track from her current project, the "alterna-grass" supergroup Roxie Watson. 

Oh Magnolia

If you slogged through this far, you should really download this CD. All you need is a Google account. And then you'd better read that album booklet. It's as eloquent a testimony to music as I've ever read. Even though we're a week into the new year, I bet that reading it will give you the resolve to chase your own dream, just as Sonia has. So here's to 2012, a year of fulfillment and serenity. Thanks, Sonia.

(And special thanks to Bryce for the tech support!)
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Hoo, boy. There are a lot of links to dump on you here...

Sonia Tetlow - Facebook (unofficial), Myspace (inactive), CDBaby
STB (Sonia's first two albums) - CDBaby
Herman Put Down the Gun on MyspaceCDBaby
Roxie Watson - OfficialFacebook, CDBaby

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