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KXCI celebrates International Women's Day

What do Nico, Dolly Parton, Queen Latifah, Carly Simon and Fiona Apple have in common? Hint: It's what KXCI will be honoring with a March 9 concert featuring six Tucson musicians, at Club Congress.

The concert, billed as Rapture: A Salute to Women Musicians, may or may not honor any of those leading lights. With one exception, no one's saying whose music will be covered at the event, part of KXCI's celebration of International Women's Day Mar. 8. Organizer Amber Askey will divulge only that Keli Carpenter will sing Nena's anti-war parable "99 Luftballoons." There remains the mystery of whether or not she'll sing it in the original German.

Carpenter and her band, T.R.Y.S.T., will be joined on the program by local folk-rock diva Amy Rude; singer-songwriter Leila Lopez; Mitzi Cowell, who opened for Anna Egge last Spring; Tammy West; and Mandy Vanko in her Tucson debut.

"I wanted to get a diversity of people there," says Askey. "Mitzi has been (performing) a long time and has quite a following. (She) always makes it so interesting with all of her guitar work. Her style of music is different than Leila Lopez's is and different than Amy's is. I wanted to do sort of a 'Music Mix' of all different sorts of women musicians." Askey hosts KXCI's "Music Mix" on weekday mornings.

Askey also encouraged the women to stretch outside their own genres. "Leila primarily does folk and rock so it's going to be really interesting to see what she does with an icon of women's rock 'n' roll and blues. Keli Carpenter has kind of an easy-breezy jam session with T.R.Y.S.T., so it'll be interesting to cover Nena.

"Amy's Americana, but she's going to be covering a rocker, so that'll be fun. And Mandy is new to the scene. She's doing someone who had some hits in the '60s. Tammy is going to be doing someone actually who's coming to town later in the month." (Spoiler: Lucinda Williams, maybe? March 30 at the Rialto Theatre.)

All the women responded enthusiastically to Askey's idea, although none profess to be active feminists, and some were unaware of International Women's Day. Rude notes, "There's always that feeling when you sort of rule out one gender. I have feelings of conflict about conferences or festivals just for women, or books written just about women in rock. There's always a part of me that says 'Let's just get on with it, now.'"

But she adds, "As a woman, I'm interested in music made by women. It doesn't mean that I just want to go to Lilith Fair; just because it's a bunch of women getting together doesn't necessarily make it good music. A lot of women can sing about incredibly banal things just like men can. It's not the message; it's often the way that women play their instruments. I think some women approach their instruments or their music with a kind of naiveté that is attractive, like The Raincoats. And sometimes I just like the sound of a woman's voice. It's more expressive; it's often better.

"I picked the person I picked (to cover) because, although I don't generally like the production of her music, I think this particular person is an intelligent writer and has crafted good songs. This is the thing: Bad production of music for women has really, for me, gotten in the way of a lot of great songwriting and intelligent playing."

Newcomer Vanko says, "I chose to do the songs that I'm doing because my voice fits them well and they're my favorite songs to sing. I grew up listening to oldies a lot, taking car rides with my parents. As much as I hated it when I was really little, I began to like it, and these were songs I would hear now and then. They've all got kind of a bluesy, jazzy, folk-like sound to them."

For Carpenter's part, she says, "T.R.Y.S.T. is a funk/fusion/jazz band. I have a trumpet player in the band so we like to play songs we can incorporate our own sound into. We're actually covering four different artists. We're doing some soul stuff, which is totally different from T.R.Y.S.T. It's really stretching outside of how we write as a band. They're all different."

Let's see: If six artists cover four women each, that leaves a lot of ground uncovered, and a lot of local women musicians out. Askey is undaunted. "I just thought it would be really cool for local women to have a really nice showcase where six of them could pool the resources. Hopefully it'll be an annual event!"

Meanwhile, says Rude, "One of the things I'm looking forward to in doing the show is listening to women musicians. I just don't know. I like that a lot."

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