LeAnn Rimes leaped into the spotlight in 1996 at the ripe old age of 13 and became country music's newest golden girl. Thanks to an impressive set of pipes -- and some nifty myth-making -- she reigned as the sweet and innocent heir-apparent to Patsy Cline.
But little girls grow up, and adolescence isn't always pretty, even in the best of circumstances. When viewed through the glare of the spotlight, Rimes' coming-of-age was turbulent, to say the least. Not long after the enormous success of her debut album, Blue, her parents divorced. Then she moved to L.A. in search of film stardom. Rumors of extravagance hit the tabloids and then the legal troubles began, including a court battle with her father. Early in 2001, Rimes publicly distanced herself from her record company and an album she said was released without her input, and she hasn't toured since.
Last year, however, she quietly patched things up with both dad and Curb Records. Rimes married dancer Dean Sheremet, and the couple moved to Nashville. In October, Curb released her latest studio effort, Twisted Angel, with sexy visuals and lyrics and distinctly pop arrangements reminiscent of Faith Hill or Shania Twain. Rimes pouts moodily on the cover, looking downright Britney-esque. Now almost 21, the little girl with the big voice is a grown-up married lady, but her vocal ability is still at the heart of her appeal, even as she explores new styles.
"It's not about my image, it's about my voice," she says. "I've never had to take off my clothes to sell records."
Indeed, Rimes' vocal ability sells plenty of records. Whatever you think of her personal choices of material, there's no denying her prodigious talent.
"Musically, I don't think I've really changed that much," she says. "I just grew up. People think of me as such a kid, so just seeing me as a woman is hard."
On Twisted Angel, Rimes controlled far more of the artistic vision than on any previous album. She served as executive producer and co-wrote four of the songs, working with Desmond Child, Peter Amato and Gregg Pagani. The album definitely aims at a pop-crossover audience, but Rimes insists it doesn't mark a permanent shift away from her country roots.
"The last record was really about self-exploration," she says, adding that the songs just reflect the diverse musical influences she enjoys. "I jam to Janis Joplin in my car all the time. I love Bonnie Raitt. Those are the kinds of musicians who have influenced me all my life."
On this current tour, Rimes travels with a five-piece band to a series of mid-size venues, many of them outdoor sites like the Riverfront Park setting of her Spokane visit. She says the smaller scale has helped her ease back into touring after a three-year hiatus.
"It's nice, just to get reacquainted with touring and performing," she says. "It's just me and my band, so it's really an intimate show." She's excited to be able to do an acoustic set of four or five songs during the concert. "I did an acoustic show in December, and that really inspired me."
In addition to touring, Rimes collaborated with her husband on a new children's book, Jag, due to be released in August. The book tells the story of a young jaguar on his first day of school, overcoming fears and learning to get along with others. Rimes says she can relate to the story through her experiences as a child prodigy.
"Oh, yeah, being picked on for what I did, and other girls being really catty and jealous," she says. "It definitely comes from my experience."
She's also got a Christmas album in the wings, and she can be heard singing "We Can" on the soundtrack of the new Reese Witherspoon film, Legally Blonde 2. An album of new original material is in the works as well, although Rimes is keeping mum on her newest musical explorations. Now that those bumpy teen years are in the past, perhaps she can lock onto songs that will carry her to the next level. She hopes to continue writing and collaborating with other writers on new material.
"I've always been singing, but writing just came with age, as I've gained life experience," she says, adding that singing her own words is easier. "Yeah, they're just composed from my soul."
Dead on Arrival? Hardly. -- British Columbia's most popular export (next to Kokanee) is an enduring example of what punk used to represent and, more significantly, what it could represent. D.O.A.'s contributions to the genre over the last 25 (that's right, 25) are innumerable. First up, the band was ahead of the curve in regard to a growing popular sentiment when they codified the phrase "Disco Sucks" on their 1978 debut EP of the same name (also included were such great titles as "Nazi Training Camp" and "Woke Up Screaming"). Then there was the band's 1981 landmark album, Hardcore 81, which not only introduced the term "hardcore" into the rock vernacular but also established the template (along with Black Flag's Damaged and the Dead Kennedys' Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables) for West Coast, post-Sex Pistols punk. In short, D.O.A. played a huge role in advancing punk counterculture, the notion of DIY empowerment and four-chord social and political activism throughout the Western world.
Without a second to lose, the band returns to stomp some sense (and fun!) into local skulls this Saturday at the B-Side. Local disciples Mang, Horrible Disaster, the Dee Farmin Army have signed on to open the show.
In more ways than one, singer/songwriter/guitarist Joey "Shithead" Keithley's D.O.A. represented the B.C. equivalent of Jello Biafra's San Francisco-based Dead Kennedys: an activist punk band that never shied away from a fight or was afraid to be provocative or obnoxious in the quest to push its listeners' buttons. When it comes to a D.O.A. album, you are, on some level anyway, obliged to judge the contents by the cover (check out some titles: Festival of Atheists, War on .45, Something Better Change, Bloodied but Unbowed) and to listen -- actively. But Keithley's irreverence, sarcasm and righteous anger was always -- and is still -- tempered by wit and a clear and enthusiastic love for rock 'n' roll, making each new D.O.A. release an intense yet joyous listening experience.
D.O.A.'s latest (what is this now, No. 12? No. 13?), Win the Battle on Keithley's own Sudden Death records, is really more of the same quality, no-compromise, politically aware punk that fans have come to expect ("Just Say No to the WTO," "Warmonger") along with the humor that keeps the more weighty bits afloat ("If I Were a Redneck" and a snarling cover of ZZ Top's "La Grange").
And as just a point of fact, the band (currently comprised of Keithley, bassist Randy Rampage and a drummer named the Great Baldini) puts its "talk minus action equals zero" sloganeering into practice by supporting Green causes (Keithley has made numerous bids for public office) and playing benefits to support groups fighting racism, globalization and censorship.
This is a great band, people, and if you've yet to see D.O.A. perform live all I can ask is: Where have you been the last 25 years?
Sol & eacute; Moves. Again. -- In case you haven't heard, Derek Almond of Sol & eacute; all-ages venue fame has pulled up his stakes once again and has moved -- uptown, this time, from his South Monroe railside location to bigger, presumably better and certainly more acoustically accommodating digs across from Burgan's Furniture at 1039 N. Division. It's a nondescript little brick job that you've probably never even noticed before in your haste to cross the Division Street Bridge. But it just may prove to be the ideal place for Almond and his partners in live music to finally (after, like, four moves in the past couple of years) settle in and put down some roots.
Though the new Sol & eacute; is somewhat removed from the highly desirable downtown core, it has plenty of features to recommend it. It's easy to find and park near. The venue space is larger (or maybe it just seems that way) and has vastly improved acoustics over the former locale. Equipment loading is a snap and ventilation is greatly enhanced, thanks to large roll up garage doors, fans and actual AC.
The schedule this summer is as action-packed as ever (check our listings), with vital young acts performing just about every night of the week. So get up there, say hello and evaluate the upgrade.