(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

SOLO: WOMEN SINGER-SONGWRITERS IN THEIR OWN WORDS offers the self-searching accounts of nineteen female recording artists who craft their own material. Drawn from “in-depth, candid conversations,” the profiles in the book are presented as first-person narratives. While his questions often remain evident in the narrative (Does being a woman define your art? Do you consider yourself a feminist? What is the relationship between your personal life and your work?), editor Marc Woodworth successfully creates coherent, sometimes compelling monologues from his dialogues with the artists. He also manages to retain the singular “voice” of each woman. This supports his effort to counteract categorizing female singer-songwriters as either “angry” or “sensitive.”

The artists selected by Woodworth represent a broad range of styles—from jazz to country and from punk to funk—and backgrounds—from East Harlem to rural Mississippi. They also range from chart-topping pop performers to artists heard almost exclusively on “alternative” radio stations—profiled are James Bond soundtrack star Sheryl Crow as well as Greenwich Village folkie Lucy Kaplansky. The entrepreneurial Sarah McLachlan, who founded the Lilith Fair, and Ani DiFranco, who owns her record label, are also featured. Fans of such hit makers as Jewel, Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter will be pleased to find them in the table of contents. While 1980’s artists Roseanne Cash and Suzanne Vega are included, missing are such pioneers from the 1970’s who continue to perform such as Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and Rickie Lee Jones. The book’s selection therefore fails to provide much of a historical perspective.

Several black-and-white photographs of the artists by Emma Dodge Hanson accompany their narratives. Artist biographies at the back of the book supply promotional-style listings of credits and accomplishments.