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{CD cover} Heather Bishop Live
By Heather Bishop
Mother Of Pearl Records MPCD012
Review by Michael Cottrell

Whereas my queer peers were captured into the rhythms and moods of the music of ABBA, Donna Summer, and Gloria Gaynor, the beat of my coming out was found in the women's folk music of Heather Bishop.

As an emerging identity of queer man was developing in me, I found myself listening over and over again to words off of an L.P. (you can now see how ago that was) "Like the Yukon rain, you came so unexpected". Heather was singing my anguish of a confusing love affair.

"Please hold me tight, waltz me around to the beat of your heart". In those novitiate years of queering, my heart vibrated with a great gasp, wondering if I would ever find someone that would hold me tight as I was lost in Heather's music.

Once hearing the first stanza of "Waltz me around", I was hooked on Heather's voice. I bought every album and tape (hey, technology was setting in!) There was something sure in her voice and music. It wasn't that it was just a Canadian voice. Her vocals resonated within me and it was lesbian woman music that my gay soul awoke to.

Heather Bishop sings in the style of a true folk artist. Her choice of music -- well, her choice of adult music -- is music of depth and consciousness. Of course there are the fun frivolous tunes, but in any set Bishop always manages to move the listener to a deeper level of thinking and, more importantly, feeling.

Heather has sung the anguish of the Earth in songs like "Spirit Healer", captured the tribulations and the triumphs of womanhood ("Warrior"), and simply made us think sometimes humourously in the wild world of love huh? ("If You Leave Me Darlin'").

People have joked that Heather simply taps into my inner lesbian but, all joking aside, it was in the music of Heather Bishop, Holly Near, Chris Williamson and Ferron that I found my liberated voice as a man.

Bishop's music was my first awareness of "queer" music. Oh sure, Joan Baez caused a stir when she sang "Virgil Kane is my Name", but it wasn't real. Bishop didn't change pronouns in Seduced and I knew she was singing about queer love. I knew it was real. Heather made it sound real, and feel obtainable.

Over the years I have bought all of Heather's music. I even have stashes of her children's recordings that carry me away into childhood fantasy.

Since coming out and doing what a lot of gay guys do, move to the big city, I have added to my pleasure of Heather Bishop by making sure I'm in attendance when she is in concert. A groupie? No, just some one who appreciates good heartfelt music.

This year (the year 2000) saw the release of Heather's latest CD, "Heather Bishop Live", and it was with great anticipation that I waited for it.

I am always reticent about live albums, so when Heather had said that she was working on a new CD and that it was a live album, I was disappointed.

Live albums in my experience have meant the rehashing of old tunes; not that I get tired of hearing Heather's music, but why would I want a CD with music that I already have?

Live, I have also experienced to mean lesser quality. Lesser quality in recording, lesser quality in production. I have so many live albums on which the artist has to sing over the cheering or, worse, the crowds that want to be backup singers.

"Heather Bishop Live" is not that type of album. The recordings are crisp and clean. In the case of this album, "live" meant that there was an audience present for the recordings. Bishop even jokes with her fans that they may feel like singing along with the chorus to "I want to be a Cowgirl Sweetheart" but adds: "Don't." The recording of this album has kept the audience present but distant; they do not detract from the talent even when Heather invites them to participate in one song.

"Heather Bishop Live" is presented in the well-known Bishop style. She has you laughing from the beginning, singing of the woes of aging in "Aging Grace". Playfully teasing with "Cyber Love" and just when she has the listener relaxed, thinking this is just a "fun" collection, Bishop strokes the soul with "The Letter".

There are many times that I have to press "skip" over Heather singing "The Letter". Her musical art of storytelling takes me to a deep spot of sadness as she sings the words of a mother and a son.

"Heather Bishop Live" is a seasoned recording. This artist's decades of experience and wisdom come through in the choice of music. This is not a reshaping of previous recordings, yet the choice of songs recalls all of Bishop's styles. In the newness there is a comfortable déjà vu.

As much as I look forward to new concerts and new recordings, "Heather Bishop Live" has left me with feelings of satiation and comfort with the ebbs and flows of many emotions and memories.

It has been 13 years since I first heard Heather's words, wondering if I would ever experience the emotions that her voice and words projected. Well, those 13 years have been years of growing and falling and growing more and when she sings,

"As I see you here before me, you're absolutely beautiful
As I see you here before me, you're completely whole
As I see you here before me, your loving is a miracle
How deeply we're connected to the whole."

I smile and sigh with the heartbeat of knowing.

Thank you, Heather, for being a part of my journey.

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