Aural Fixation: Syd Straw

I’m sure that, at one point or another, you’ve heard someone referred to as a “musicians’ musician.”  That’s usually a (backhandedly) polite way of saying that, while they may never achieve critical or commercial acclaim, someone’s music will forever resonate with other (and ostensibly more famous) musicians.  As if that offers any real consolation.  However, by that definition, Syd Straw is one hell of a musicians’ musician.

Syd got her start singing with, of all people, Pat Benatar, as well as in one of my favorite amorphous supergroups, The Golden Palominos.  As the Palominos’ music started to wander away from the outsider Americana that Syd’s voice so strongly evoked, the time seemed right to go solo.  Syd’s debut, Surprise, featured many of the prominent contributors to the Golden Palominos, including founder Anton Fier, Richard Thompson and Michael Stipe.  Her next album, War And Peace, didn’t arrive until 1996, and in the years in between, Syd made herself productive and provided vocals for Grant McLennan‘s fabulous Horsebreaker Star, working with Rickie Lee Jones and Leo Kottke, and covering “Blue Shadows On The Trail” for the Stay Awake: Various Interpretations Of Songs From Vintage Disney Films collection.

Aside from music, Straw spent some time acting, although it was most likely her music that attracted her to the crew of ‘The Adventures Of Pete & Pete,’ where she portrayed the bass-playing math teacher Miss Fingerwood.  Though she has only released three proper albums (including 2008’s self-released Pink Velour), Syd Straw remains an unmistakable voice (literally) in the alternative pop community.

Listen: The Golden Palominos (feat. Syd Straw) – “Diamonds” from Blast Of Silence (1986)

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~ by E. on January 27, 2010.

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