REVIEW: Denise Lee’s ‘The Divas of American Music’ at the Winspear

With the Grammy Awards coming in less than three weeks, this coming Friday brings Dallas Voice’s annual Music Issue, so leading up to it, we’re gonna set the mood with reviews and interviews of trendsetting musicmakers all week long. First up: Denise Lee.

Broadway has told us for decades that life is a cabaret (old chum), but you got a sense for that being true inside Hamon Hall at the Winspear last night. That’s where before an enthusiastic crowd Denise Lee, one of Dallas’ reigning doyennes of song, celebrated her personal divas, from songwriters like Dorothy Fields (“No one ever remembers the lyricist,” she clucked, especially when they are women — she noted that the Songwriters Hall of Fame contains only seven women inductees) to stylists from Carole King to Barbra Streisand.

“This is a hard business,” Lee observed from the stage. But she makes it look easy.

Anyone familiar with Lee knows that her personality is casual and unfussed. She joked about her wardrobe malfunctions (“It’s amazing what you can do with Super Glue,” she sighed) and toyed with the mike stand; when she needed to refer to some written notes, she removed a paper from her bra (“these aren’t just to look at”). It was as friendly and warm and engaging as an evening with a friend and a bottle of wine.

But none of it would have mattered without the songs. Lee performed everything from “America, the Beautiful” to Lady Day’s “Strange Fruit,” to songs from Bonnie Raitt, Nina Simone (a roiling version of “Mississippi Goddam”), Joni Mitchell. Of course there was Aretha. But whoever popularized them first, the songs were all Lee’s own. She’s our diva.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan at the Eisemann Center Saturday night

Although I was unable to go, my colleague Chance bravely stepped in to cover the big country concert over the weekend. Actually, he was quite willing to catch Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan as they brought their Grits and Glamour Tour to north Texas on Saturday. Performing at the Eisemann in Richardson, Chance trekked up north to get in on some hoedown action.

Read his take after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Concert Notice: Britney hits up AAC in July

If you caught Britney Spears’ performance on Good Morning America today, you likely heard her announce she’ll be on the road quick-like to support her new album, Femme Fatale (I’ll have a review of it in this week’s ish). According to Billboard, the North American tour starts in June, and hits Dallas at the American Airlines Center on July 12. Enrique Iglesias was to be on the bill as well, but has reportedly dropped out already – just hours after the tour announcement. Perhaps two divas on a bill just wasn’t a good idea.

For those who missed GMA this morning, here’s some video of the concert as a preview of what to expect in July.

—  Rich Lopez

Jac of all trades: Not wanting to be just some disco diva, Jacinta calls her own shots

A STEP ABOVE | Jacinta plays a hand in all her dance music, from writing to production, which sets her apart from many fleeting singers releasing only singles and remixes.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Let’s face it: The gays like their dance music. That makes the industry ripe for countless Madonna-Britney-Gaga wannabes and one-hit wonders. (You should count the number of remix singles by “divas” that pass through the desk of music writers without actual albums attached to them.)

Jacinta Brondgeest may easily be categorized as just another girl on the dancefloor, but don’t sell her short. She’s brimming with substance.

“I try to be involved in so many aspects of the music-making process,” she says. “I love getting into the production part of it and also, I think what set’s me apart is I create and write my own music. Songwriting is precious to me. I’m always working on different facets.”

Going by only her first name (or her nickname, Jac), Jacinta isn’t just the product of DJs and producers. Instead of leaving her musical career in the hands of others and risking flash-in-the-pan status, Jacinta has been taking steps to fashion a career on her own terms. Part of that includes her live show, which she brings to Sue Ellen’s Friday.

And after finding success in her adoptive homeland of Australia (she was born in Oregon, but her family moved Down Under when she was six weeks old), Jacinta returned to the U.S. in 2002 to give the music industry a try. She thrived in the hot music environment of Austin, but just weeks ago, relocated to Houston.

“Houston is such a bigger landscape for us and more conducive to the style of music we play,” she says.

When Jacinta produced her first EP, Dedicated to a Stranger, in 1996, she decided that if her money was behind her own work, she should start her own label. Thus was born Chunky Music, named after her habit of sampling big chunks of music into her own. After attaining distribution in Australia, she put America in her sites.

“The label encapsulates everything I do, which essentially is pop-rock,” she says. “We do piano, vocals, electronica and remixes, hence our huge dance catalog. And now we’re tri-coastal and based out of Los Angeles, Houston and Australia.”

When the beat goes down, Jacinta also creates and produces meditation music. She admits making 2009’s Past Life Meditation was easy.

“The process of putting the music together was different, but it was an easier project because the creativity was all instrumental,” she says. “I think meditation is a wonderful thing and it was very enjoyable putting that music together.”

Naturally, she found a gay audience with her dance music. Jacinta booked high profile Pride gigs in Australia, Seattle, Austin and the Folsom Street Festival in San Francisco. Her song, “Keep it a Secret,” became a gay anthem of sorts to the audiences who saw her perform it.

“I wrote that in 2007 and it just resonated with the gay community when I performed it so those audiences are very important to me,” she says. “The song reminds people to be uniquely yourself and finding the courage to be that person.”

Sue Ellen’s may not be the first place for live performances of dance music, but that doesn’t worry Jacinta. She’s had her share of lesbian audiences with her first band Maiden Voyage. She says that all-girl bands always get those venues. So how does she identify? Well, she responds in that coy pop star way.

“Well, it depends on whom I’m sleeping with,” she laughs.

Well played.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright