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Diamanda Galas | La Serpenta Canta | review | alternative | Lollipop

Diamanda Galas

La Serpenta Canta (Mute)
by Lex Marburger

Um, what? Ok, you've got this voice, widely considered one of the more ambitious, aggressive, and powerful avant-garde throats in the business, attached to a woman who can manipulate it into beautiful and terrifying sounds (often simultaneously), and you've got her in a live concert, and she's playing... blues? Well, that's Diamanda Galas for you. La Serpenta Canta is a collection of live dates with her and a piano (and an occasional delay pedal), and she's doing tunes by John Lee Hooker, Hank Williams, Screamin Jay Hawkins, and Ornette Coleman. Apparently, her goal is to update, or keep fresh, the tortured spirits that created the songs, to divorce them from the accumulated patina of cheese that time and familiarity has brought to these songs. I mean, let's face it, when was the last time you heard the blues being sung by someone who had the blues? Call La Serpenta Canta a suckerpunch to Eric Clapton and Travis Tritt: Her versions of Williams' "I'm so Lonely I Could Cry" and Hooker's "Burning Hell" are indictments against the artificiality and soulessness modern artists bring to music that's supposed to reflect tragedy, pain, and sorrow.

Ok, she goes over the top sometimes. Anyone who can listen to her doing Hawkin's "I Put a Spell On You" without giggling just a little will probably be in the hospital a few weeks from now, getting that stick surgically removed. I suppose La Serpenta Canta is a good concept, but in truth, I'd rather hear something off Fat Possum - blues and country being played in a more, uh, "traditional" way - and pick up Diamada when she's doing a follow up to Schrei X.

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