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- Posted on Mar 13th 2010 2:30PM by Liisa Ladouceur
When your voice is shot from trans-Atlantic jetlag and a cold virus, your guitar gear was partly damaged en route and the howling rain is keeping the audience away, what's a girl to do? If you're England's Gemma Ray, then you sing the blues.
The Jimmy Page-approved femme fatale is appearing solo at Canadian Music Week / Canadian Music Fest in support of her latest album, the ethereal pop-noire collection 'Lights Out Zoltar!' But after apologizing for her cold-induced "man voice," she launched instead into a series of covers that turned her raw, threatening-to-croak delivery into the perfect companion piece.
Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind" and "Swamp Snake" by Alex Harvey were transformed into eerie, slow burns of pain and longing. Suddenly Ray, oh-so-cute in her '60s mini-dress with flowers in her hair, seemed a lot more dangerous. Or maybe it was the way she played slide on her vintage Hagstorm guitar (dubbed "LL One Arm" in sparkly silver stickers) with a kitchen knife.
For her extended version of Mudhoney's "Touch Me I'm Sick," she accompanied herself with loops of guitar and vocal effects, working it up to spooky mantra of feedback. That this all happened in the Silver Dollar, Toronto's venerable blues bar, made it seem less like a happy accident and more like destiny.
The best part is that Gemma Ray is releasing an album of these covers soon, called 'It's a Shame About Gemma Ray.' The worst part is that it wasn't actually a cold: turns out she's got laryngitis and has cancelled her second CMF showcase, scheduled for tonight at the Painted Lady in order to rest up for a German television performance.
Her SXSW dates are unaffected.