Sooo...why is it that Europe is always on the American-roots tip more so than us Yanks? Case in point: the ’90s. While a more lysergic brand of artists was struggling to morph punk/DIY sensibilities and Americana into some forward motion in the wake of the few breakthroughs (Knitters, Blasters, Gun Club, etc.), German labels like New Rose, Return to Sender, and Glitterhouse hoovered up and celebrated the likes of the Walkabouts, Steve Wynn, Giant Sand, Chris Cacavas, Walter Salas-Humara, and Dave Schramm. It was a period celebrating an outward-staring American ambition to do something different with its musical heritage, and infusing punk was a big wrench thrown into the establishment. Just as X certainly pulled from the Ramones, so did Tav Falco’s rough ramble sip sweetly from the import bins of whatever U.K. post-punk he was able to wrangle in record stores.

A film photo of Lorette Velvette and her band.
Who said you can't wear shorts on stage? Photo by Tana Dubbe.

Enter Lorette Velvette (née Lori Godwin), coming up through Memphis at this juncture, onetime paramour to Falco and soaking in the punk vibes in her locale as much as digging blues icon Fred McDowell. Her background came not so much from academia as it did fandom of many musical forms. Early interludes with primitive senior goddess of the scene Jessie Mae Hemphill (introduced to each other by Tav), and the eventual comfortable surroundings of Memphis’ Antenna Club, emboldened her to get up and work her own vision. She did it first in the amazing all-woman Hellcats and then, later, Alluring Strange. Her unusual presence and strident but quavery vocals marked a unique and different side of the scene; scribes were likely to throw comparisons like “truck-stop waitress with grit and guitar,” but it was severely obvious that she was an artist who transcended easy tags and parameters. Tours with Panther Burns blazed trails and familiarity overseas, and eventually she set sail with Germany’s Veracity imprint for an amazing triad of records in the mid-’90s (White Birds, Dream Hotel, and Lost Part of Me), with her own tours eventually finding her rapturously received, particularly by Germans.

The spirit of so much lies in these grooves


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