Laura’s tough love: singer-songwriter Laura Love shares the anger and wit she poured into her new antiwar CD – The Music Issue – Biography
If you’ve been making music for as long as singer-songwriter Laura Love has, releasing your eighth album may seem routine. But she still finds reasons to get excited. “I’m thrilled about this record, Welcome to Pagan Place, because it combines my three favorite musical genres: funk, bluegrass, and despising the Bush administration,” she says with a laugh.
You won’t find “Politics” next to “Pop & Rock” at your local music store, but Love has made a career out of blending things that don’t normally mix. Her sound has been described as “hipalachian” (hip-hop meets Appalachian), “con-fusion’ (country plus fusion), and–the label that seems to stick most–Afro-Celtic. “When I first started calling it that, it was sort of tongue-in-cheek, just because those are the influences that I really like,” she says. “It’s a lot of funk on the one hand and a lot of fiddle on the other.”
Growing up in Omaha, Neb., in the 1960s, Love was raised on an eclectic musical diet. “You could turn on the radio and hear a folk rune, something like ‘Tom Dooley,’ and then right next to that you’d hear Sly and the Family Stone,” she says. “You could listen to the radio and be happy and satisfied for hours.”
But music also played a more serious role for Love when she was younger. Her mother, Wini Winston, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia shortly after Love was born Her father, Preston Love, was a jazz saxophonist who played with Count Basie before starting his own band. Love’s father walked out on Winston when Love and her sister were still small. He was already married with two sons, but Love’s mother told her girls that he’d been killed in a car accident.
When their mother’s illness left her in the hospital, Love and her sister often wound up in orphanages or foster homes. “There was a lot of insecurity and uncertainty when I was growing up about how and where we were going to live,” Love says. “But we tried to get through it by making each other laugh and singing songs to each other, and that basically continues to today as a way of coping with craziness.’
Love has used her music to talk about her tough childhood and her struggles living as a light-skinned African-American; in 1990 she released her first record, Z Therapy, on her own label, Octoroon Biography. But Welcome to Pagan Place, which was released in April by Koch Records, displays a new edge. “I’m profoundly angry at the [Bush] administration,” says Love, who is vehemently opposed to the war in Iraq. “I’ve always been very politically active, but this whole record is about my anger at the president. In past records I’ve tried to be a little subtle, to make people reach for the message a little, but in this record I’ve just put it out there with no subterfuge,” she says. In “I Want You Gone,” the CD’s first single, Love even sends Bush a helpful pronunciation tip: “Nucular is not a word.”
Love’s story keeps expanding. Hyperion Books is set to release her memoirs, You Ain’t Got No Easter Clothes, next year, and Love and her partner of seven years have recently become foster parents. “Here I am, 43 years old, childless by choice, have never changed a diaper in my life,” she ‘says. “But we held this baby the first day it was born, we fell in love with it, and now that I’m in my 40s, having kids, that ain’t nothing.”
Dukowitz has written for Salon.com.
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