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On Their Own Terms 

A survey of independent releases from gay artists

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Thirty-three years after the Stonewall Revolution, you'd think it wouldn't be a big deal for a performer to come out publicly. Yet, if you scan the slowly growing list of lesbian/gay musicians, you'll discover that many "stars" wait until they make a secure name for themselves before disclosing their sexual status and steadfastly eschew same-sex relationship lyrics.

In contrast, gay and lesbian independent musicians frequently make a point of celebrating their sexual and political identity. Because their music is often motivated by a fundamental need to proclaim their inner truth, their artistry has won them loyal followings. While some out musicians have broken into the big time, most have stuck with independent production, building their careers from the grassroots.

Outvoice.net and outmusic.com serve as sources of outreach, communication and support for openly gay and lesbian musicians. Site-goers discover new music and links to Web sites, vote for their favorite albums, and secure music directly from the artists or from independent music distributors such as CDBaby.com.

Here's a survey of some compelling gay independent artists new to the scene.

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Mark Weigle
Out of the Loop

Billboard-lauded singer-songwriter Mark Weigle may have titled his new disc Out of the Loop, but it paradoxically presents the Bay Areabased artist with his best opportunity to date for mainstream recognition. Its 11 tracks -- a stylistic hybrid between the acoustic country/folk style of his 1998 The Truth Is (OutVoice CD of the Year) and the more pop/electric guitar grooves of his best-selling 2000 All That Matters -- present the 34-year-old singer as a mature, visionary artist.

Perhaps the most moving track on the CD is "Out," an electronically dubbed coming-out duet with the late Steven Grossman. At times doubling his own guitar with Grossman's, Weigle sings the first verse until Grossman takes over, recounting his extraordinary confrontation with his father on manhood and homosexuality. The final verse, uniting these two unique artists who bare their souls through their voices, will bring tears to many listeners.

This is a great album. (For more, visit
www.markweigle.com)

Rating: 5

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Drew Paralic
Too Little, Too Late

Paralic is a New Yorkbased jazz composer and arranger who occasionally plays piano at open mikes. Mostly, however, he entrusts his music to other top-flight musicians.

Such is the case with this well-recorded CD, which offers just under 40 minutes' worth of original instrumental compositions played by the excellent Mike Capobianco Ensembles. Paralic's music is upbeat, warm and consistently engaging. A jazz DJ friend fell in love with this disc, telling me it was much better than another he had been touting on his radio show. Give it a try.

Rating: 4

John Ashfield
Harmony Bunny

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There's a fine, old-fashioned rock quality to John Ashfield's 12-track "power pop" CD. Many of the songs are about love and relationships, written in a rhythmically-varied style reminiscent of the pre-rap, pre-Reagan era when life seemed a bit easier (at least to middle-class white people).

Ashfield's day job as an underpaid elementary school music teacher must not provide enough money for expensive studio time; he recorded much of the disc at home. The difference in sound quality between his lovely, multitracked vocals and studio-recorded accompaniment is marked. Though the sweetness of Ashfield's winning, wide-ranging tenor voice and the clarity of his lyrics come through, the dullness of the sonics and early digital edge to the cymbals limit the enjoyment of a disc that is otherwise quite enjoyable. (For more, visit

www.johnashfieldmusic.com)

Rating: 3

Steve Snelling
Perfect Strangers

The Rico, Coloradobased Snelling was motivated to create his well-packaged, professionally recorded CD to help purge the sadness he experienced earlier in his life. Though the singer/songwriter's most recent compositions are frequently overtly spiritual -- he recently returned from three weeks in Peru studying with Amazonian shamans -- this disc draws from a period that included lying down in a snow bank to check out.

From the first track, "Daniel," which draws upon Snelling's work with violent, developmentally disabled adolescents, one senses a mind willing to probe the deep mysteries of life. "This Can't Be My World," which touches upon his failed suicide attempt, is quite daring, while "Perfect Strangers," a gay love song with expert accompaniment, is anything but glib. The man asks you to listen, singing in a sweet voice whose message is more important than the steady beat that underlies it. Highly recommended. (For more, visit

www.stevesnelling.com)

Rating: 4

  • A survey of independent releases from gay artists

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