New Heathens

She’s Game (In Praise of Charlene McPherson)

Here's a quick riff and video demonstration on why I love Charlene McPherson, lead singer of the band Spanking Charlene. In addition to being about the best singer and sassiest songwriter I know, Charlene is, above all, game. That's about the best trait in anyone, anywhere.

Case in point, I'd been trying to write some duets and had a few ideas I wanted to make home demos of by recording them on Garageband on my aging Mac laptop. The day before Thanksgiving I asked Charlene if I could come over to her apartment, guitar and computer in tow, to record. What did she say? She said yes. Why? Because she's game, that's why.

The day after Thanksgiving I had the pleasure of opening up for Charlene at Banjo Jim's for a really cool monthly residency she has with her guitar-slinging partner Mo called "The Sad Bastard Series." The Sad Bastards are yin to Spanking Charlene's yang. Whereas the full electric band is edgy, punky, sexy, dirty and loud, the acoustic Sad Bastard series puts on full display Charlene's remarkable voice and her ability to carry a tearjerking ballad, a country song or a folked-up version of a Replacements or Smiths deep-cut better than anybody. (I sort of see it as her saying, I could be Joan Baez if I wanted, I just choose to be Joan Jett.)

Charlene sang harmonies on the songs "I Thought You Were My Friend" and "Don't Think I Can't Stop (Just Because I Don't)" on Hello Disaster, so a lot of times when we're on the same bill I'll ask her to come up and sing those songs with me. She does. Because she is game.

On Friday I asked her to sing a couple of the songs that we recorded at her apartment on Wednesday, which we've taken to calling, "The Red Wine Sessions" for obvious reasons. Charlene had only known the tunes for a couple days, and only sung them a few times, and there I was asking her to sing them with me onstage, in public, in this age of video phones and YouTube.

And what did she say? She said yes. Why? Because she's game.

So here's one, called "You Keep Coming Around," courtesy of phone videographer extraordinaire, Jeremy.

And here's Charlene and Mo performing  their song, "This City," as part of the Sad Bastard Series.

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