Years later, Bitchin' Babes going strong May 2, 2011
By Craig Harris
Special to Reminder Publications
Intended as a one-time showcase of women singer-songwriters, the Bitchin' Babes continue to enchant audiences with well-written balladry and humorous ditties 21 years later. Though they've gone through several personnel changes, with pianist/guitarist/vocalist Sally Fingerett the only original member, the quartet's original vision of high caliber musicianship and brilliant songwriting remains intact. "We're doing really great," Fingerett said by telephone. "We've never been so busy, which is wonderful."
Fingerett and the latest lineup of the Bitchin' Babes Nancy Moran, Deidre Flint, and Debbie Smith will be returning to Springfield's City Stage and Symphony Hall, from May 19 through May 21 to perform their "Diva Nation!" revue.
"[The revues] are a theatrical way of touring on a CD," Fingerett explained. "[Our 2006 album] had songs about Viagra and hot flashes and 'Diva Nation' [released in 2009] has songs about purses, shoes, and chocolate."
Though most of the show is based on songs from the album, there is plenty of room for additions to the set list. "There are 20 songs in the show," Fingerett said, "and only 13 on a CD. There are songs [from our earlier albums] that we have to do or we get letters and whenever any of us has a new tune, we'll slip it in."
Formed by "folk music's cheerleader," Christine Lavin, as an outgrowth of several multi-artist projects that she directed in the early-1990s, the Bitchin' Babes proved its mettle after Lavin's departure in 1997.
"We're absolutely different [than we were in the beginning]," Fingerett said. "At first, we were 'Christine and her pals.' Patty [Larkin], Meghan [McDonough] and I were known in our regions, but we were little known beyond that."
As the longest lasting of its lineups, the current group has gained from the stability. "The chemistry is delicious," Fingerett said, "and we're so complimentary to each other. Deidre is the single sophisticate who's dating. Nancy is the double-income with no kids. Debbie is this domestic goddess, married to the same guy forever. They have a special needs, mildly autistic, son living with them, even though he's 21. I'm on a second marriage, having blended three teenagers."
Songs by the women reflect their differences. "We all write from our own vantage point," Fingerett said. "Deidre does the novelty, standup, comedy. Her songs are clearly clever and tightly funny. Nancy's songs are hardier, a little bluesy, and a little country. Her lyrics are 'this is it, so tough, too bad.' Debbie's songs are theatrical cabaret.
"She has a drum so there's a bit of an Irish flare. She can go from a country tune to a take-off of an opera song. Lyrically, she's very smart. I'm the piano balladeer, a little bluesy, funky, folky, and pop. Our styles of music aren't as different as the lyrics that we write and the images that we project."
In assembling this lineup, in 2002, Fingerett and Smith insured the group's compatibility. "Every time a member would leave," Fingerett recalled, "it would take so much energy to regroup. After Camille West got sick and couldn't fly anymore and Suzzy Roach, who had been touring more and more with her sisters [The Roches] and her theater company, left, Debbie and I looked high and low [for replacements]. We decided that we'd find people who were, not only good at what they did, but who were good travel partners; women who would bring their sister-hood to the stage fulltime. When we made the commitment to be a collective consciousness, equal across the board, that's when we locked in the freshness. We became this high-speed vehicle that has taken off."
Each of the women continues to pursue careers of their own. Moran has been conducting workshops on music management, while Smith has been performing solo shows and writing Christmas music for choirs. One of Flint's songs was heard on the FX dramatic series, "Nip/Tuck," last season. Fingerett continues to write articles for magazines and recently composed the score for a women's musical show in Winnipeg, Canada.
"Everyone has their own things going on," Fingerett said, "but we've made the group our priority."
Two decades after helping to form the Bitchin' Babes, Fingerett continues to discover the true value of being in such a group. "When you're touring with women that you love," she said, "you're working with a soul sister-supporting team. When we were recasting the Babes, that's what we were looking for. What makes us so wonderful on stage is because of what happens off-stage. We are holistically who we are."
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