MUSIQUE BOUTIQUE: Elizabeth King, Marianne Faithfull, Merry Clayton & Evie Sands

Welcome to Audiofemme’s monthly record review column, Musique Boutique, written by music journo vet Gillian G. Gaar. Every fourth Monday, Musique Boutique offers a cross-section of noteworthy reissues and new releases guaranteed to perk up your ears.

Elizabeth King’s life was always centered around the church. “We had preachers in our family, my mom and my daddy was church people, and mom was a great singer,” she told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “That’s just how I was brought up.” She began singing at the age of three, later recorded with the all-male Gospel Souls, and subsequently formed another singing group, the Stewart Family. But she wasn’t interested in seriously pursuing a singing career, because of her reluctance to tour while she was raising her family (she was eventually the mother of fifteen children).

Which is why it’s taken her so long — King is 77-years-old  — to finally release her debut album, Living in the Last Days (Bible & Tire Recording Co.). King has a commanding voice, as is evident from the opening track, “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord,” performed acapella to further emphasize her power. Elsewhere, she’s backed by the vibrant Sacred Souls Sound Section, who make foot-tapping numbers like the title song really jump and swing. When King and the Sacred Souls lock into a groove together, as in “Reach Out and Touch” and “Testify,” the musical force they generate is irresistible. She’s just as compelling in slow burning numbers like “Walk With Me” and “You’ve Got to Move.” This is uplifting music that will soothe your soul.

When Marianne Faithfull was hospitalized with coronavirus last year, she wasn’t expected to survive. But she beat the odds and pulled through — and went right back to work on her 21st solo album, She Walks in Beauty (BMG), created in collaboration with Warren Ellis (best known for his work with Nick Cave the Bad Seeds), and featuring guest appearances by the likes of Cave and Brian Eno.

Its release fulfills Faithfull’s longtime dream of recording an album of poetry. It’s an area she’s explored before — her 1965 album Come My Way featured “Jabberwock,” a recitation of Lewis Carroll’s poem “Jabberwocky” — but never in such depth. Her resonant voice is tailormade for the classics, and when set against the languid, atmospheric musical backing, the effect is sublime. The title track is the renowned love poem by Lord Byron; “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” is John Keats’ tale of a woeful knight; “The Lady of Shalott” is Lord Alfred Tennyson’s epic ballad of a doomed young woman (Faithfull chooses the darker 1833 version of the poem). Faithfull breathes new life into these timeless works, turning them into something exquisite.

Merry Clayton has the kind of music resume that could fill the entirety of this column. You’ve heard her voice on records by Carole King, Ringo Starr, Tori Amos, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Linda Ronstadt, Coldplay, and Odetta, to name a very few, as well as her riveting guest appearance on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” She’s released her own records too, and was profiled in the 2013 documentary 20 Feet From Stardom.

Now, twenty-seven years after the release of her last album, comes Beautiful Scars (Motown Gospel/Capitol CMG/Ode Records). Its appearance is even more remarkable considering the challenges Clayton has faced in the last decade; following a serious car accident in 2014, both her legs were amputated below the knee. Clayton’s resilience can be seen in her first question to the doctor: would her voice be affected? No, it would not. Beautiful Scars is the result.

Indeed, she wears those scars proudly, calling them “beautiful proof that I made it this far” in the album’s title song, so filled with emotion it moved her to tears. There’s a wonderful version of Sam Cooke’s “Touch the Hem of His Garment,” her voice soaring with ecstasy. She revisits Leon Russell’s “A Song for You,” which she first recorded in 1971, her voice now grown in stature to become fuller and richer. And as always, there are songs of the faith that helped her persevere, such as the joyful testifying of “He Made a Way” and “God Is Love.” Merry Clayton’s indominable spirit vibrates through every note of this record.

Evie Sands launched her music career in the 1960s. But after watching other artists go on to have hits with songs she’d previously recorded (including “Take Me For a Little While,” “I Can’t Let Go,” “Angel of the Morning”), she began moving into songwriting herself. She eventually stopped performing in 1979 to pursue songwriting and producing full time, though still releasing the occasional record.

Get Out of Your Own Way, on Sands’ own R-Spot Records label, is her first solo album since 1999. It’s fairly bursting with warmth and positive vibrations; the musical mood is an engaging rock/pop mix, with elements of country and soul, and rich harmonies throughout.

Highlights include the soulful “My Darkest Days,” a powerful number about overcoming despair, and the opening track, “The Truth is in Disguise,” a solid rocker addressing the confusion and uncertainty of diving into a new relationship. The title track provides a gentle reminder that you might be getting in the way of your own success. “Don’t Hold Back” is a go-out-there-and-get-’em ode of affirmation. “Leap of Faith” encourages you to make one.

How Molly Tuttle Made Her Quarantine Comfort Songs Personal on New Cover Album

Photo Credit: Zach Pigg

Even after its release, a song is never finished. It morphs over time as each listener overlays their own interpretation based on the circumstances around them. It takes on new meanings throughout different points in history. Nashville-based singer/songwriter/guitarist Molly Tuttle decided to embrace this fact by reimagining music by a wide variety of artists on her cover album, …but i’d rather be with you.

Tuttle grew inspired to create a cover album when listening to music helped her navigate anxiety around the Coronavirus pandemic. “Once we were social distancing and staying home, I kept going back to these songs that meant a lot to me,” she recalls. “It was just a way to keep inspired during quarantine. It was a struggle for me at first because I love playing shows with people, but this was a great outlet to play music remotely.”

Her producer, Tony Berg, suggested she record covers and send them to him, then he sent them to guest contributors to add their own music. She selected several songs she’d already covered during live shows, plus additional ones that had special meanings for her.

The Grateful Dead’s “Standing on the Moon,” which she sings soulfully against mellow acoustic guitar, reminds her of her childhood in Palo Alto, CA. FKA Twigs’ “Mirrored Heart” expresses the sense of disconnection she felt from a partner during a rough breakup, and “How Can I Tell You?” by Cat Stevens comforted her during college when she found out her family dog died. In the latter, she sings “Wherever I am, girl, I’m always walking with you, but I look and you’re not there” against emotive cello, evoking the heartbreak of losing a loved one. “Maybe he wrote it about a romantic love, but for me, it was this pure love you can’t really put into words about someone, whether they’re an animal or a person,” she says.

Her triumphant, mystical rendition of The Rolling Stones’ “She’s a Rainbow” is a highlight of the album, with guitar that gives it a psychedelic rock vibe It also took on a new meaning in this recording; regardless of the band’s original intentions, her goal was to celebrate femininity and inclusiveness. “It just reminded me of being at a pride parade or somewhere that was really celebrating all different types of people,” she says. “Songs like that had a really personal meaning to me that maybe felt separate from what the original version was saying or just kind of felt like my own interpretation of the song.”

But perhaps the song she most made her own is “Fake Empire” by The National. In the cover, warped, discordant synths cut into a steady, repetitive guitar track, mimicking the picture the song paints of people “half-awake in a fake empire,” going about their daily business while chaos ensues around them. This image spoke to Tuttle while she was working on the album, as #BlackLivesMatter protests were breaking out.

“People who have the privilege to ignore things going on in our country like police brutality and mass incarceration, people who have been able to ignore it because it doesn’t directly affect their lives, are starting to wake up to it,” she says. In the video for the cover, she used footage from ’50s and ’60s political protests, performing in front of a green screen. “I used other dreamy footage of stars to kind of give it this dream-like quality to go with the lyrics,” she explains.

The album also includes a country version of Rancid’s “Olympia, WA”; a charming, poppy rendition of Arthur Russell’s “A Little Lost,” where Tuttle’s angelic voice captures the wistfulness of new love; and a soft, acoustic version of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Zero.” She recorded and engineered her parts herself at home, which forced her to improve her production skills.

“I was used to having engineers do a lot of everything, and making all those calls on my own and doing tempos and arrangement, that was really kind of draining to do it that way,” she says. “But at the same time, in my room, I could do everything I wanted. I could turn out the lights and light some candles and feel free to sing how I felt like singing, without a bunch of people in the control room, listening and analyzing different takes. It was actually very freeing to record myself.”

Tuttle grew up learning to play bluegrass from her music teacher father, then began songwriting as a teenager and went to college for music before launching her career. She’s gained particular recognition for her flatpicking guitar technique, becoming the first woman ever to win two consecutive “Guitar Player of the Year” International Bluegrass Music Awards.

…but i’d rather be with you is her fourth solo album, and she’s currently working on another, this time full of her own original songs. “I’m trying to write songs from a really personal place for this next album and just speak to experiences I had that feel unique to me,” she says. “I’m always trying to dig deeper with my writing.”

Follow Molly Tuttle on Facebook for ongoing updates.


Somewhere in a parallel universe lives a Karma Comedian, a Cheerio Girl, and a one-winged dove. Dirty deeds are done by Thunder Chiefs, and Tony Danza holds us closer…so close. This is the Land of Misheard Lyrics, and it is a silly, silly place. Yet it is a place we are all familiar with, having suffered varying degrees of humiliation during our visits there.

For this installment of Only Noise, I reached out to my friends and fellow music journalists to ask: what lyrics have you tragically misheard in the past? And oh, how the gems rolled in. Some misinterpretations were almost universal in their familiarity. Take one colleague’s aural rendering of a Manfred Mann mega hit: “The best one has to be ‘wrapped up like a douche,’” she said. “I thought those were the lyrics to ‘Blinded By The Light’ for half my life.” I’m still convinced that’s what he’s saying, personally. In fact, if you played that song through text dictation, I bet five dollars the “douche” version would end up on your phone.

Some misinterpretations directly correlated to the age of the listener. For instance, a friend of mine admitted: “I used to think, as a child, that Prince’s ‘I Would Die 4 U’ was ‘Apple Dapple Do.’” Another pal misheard ABBA during “Take a Chance on Me.” “I used to think, when I was a kid, that the lyric ‘Honey I’m still free’ was ‘Olly oxen free.’” And perhaps my favorite instance of pop-music-through-the-ears-of-a-child: Madonna’s chart topping smash hit about a balanced breakfast: “Cheerio Girl.” Madonna wasn’t wrong (she rarely is) when she sang, “We are living in a Cheerio world/and I am a Cheerio girl.”

Similar such nonsense insisted that Steve Miller was not in fact singing “Oh, Oh big ol’ jet airliner” in “Jet Airliner,” but rather, “Bingo Jed had a lina,” whatever the hell that means. Who is this “Bingo Jed” anyhow? Some kind of gambling tycoon at the local retirement home? And what in God’s name is a lina? Only parallel universe Steve Miller can tell us.

The Land of Misheard Lyrics can be goofy, for sure, but it is also a realm of longing, proven by groups such as TLC, who once pleaded, “Don’t go, Jason Waterfalls!” And we must never forget the picturesque isolation painted by Stevie Nicks when she sang, “Just like the one-winged dove/Sings a song/Sounds like she’s singing/Ooo, ooo, ooo.” Those “Ooos” were merely the painful cries of a newly one-winged bird. Now she’ll have to apply for bird disability, and I don’t even know if that’s a thing.

If sad and silly are high rollers in the Land of Misheard Lyrics, then absurdity is king. Remember when Mick Jagger swore he’d never be “Your pizza burnin’,” or when ‘90s dance sensation Eiffel 65 confessed: “I’m blue and I beat up a guy”? Me too. Or what about the time all those “Dirty Deeds” were done by “The Thunder Chief”? Or how ‘bout that darn Karma Comedian, who was perpetually coming and going, for six choruses and a bridge? Ugh. Comedians.

But that’s just the PG side of things. Some folks heard lyrics that Freud would have a grand old time picking apart. Take Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ love ballad, “Sweetheart Come,” which a fellow music writer heard as, “Sweet Hot Cum.” To be fair, I don’t blame her for thinking that. I mean, have you ever listened to the lyrics of “Stagger Lee”? Pervy-ness abounds in the Land of Misheard Lyrics, where Ziggy Stardust can be found “Making love to an eagle,” and Sir Mix-a-Lot likes “Big butts in the candlelight.” Not fluorescent. Not incandescent. Specifically, only in candlelight. To Sir Mix-a-Lot’s nonexistent point, candles are the sexiest light source.

My personal best example of misinterpreted lyrics occurred at age 10, upon the release of “Jumpin’ Jumpin’” by Destiny’s Child. “Ladies leave your man at home,” Beyoncé and the other three sang, “the club is full of ballers and their COCK is full grown.” Say huh? How did this get past the FCC? I wondered. Did my mom, from whose car and therefore radio we were listening to such filth hear what I heard? Furthermore, if the club was full of ballers, and “their” cock was full grown, did that mean that these ballers possessed one, collective cock? The peoples’ cock? I needed answers. All I knew was one thing: you can’t say “cock” on the radio! Or could you? Was this profanity Beyoncé’s fault? Or the DJ’s for not bleeping out the “cock” word? Or was it as the great Jimmy Buffett once sang: “Some people claim that there’s a walnut to blame”? We may never know.