Melissa Etheridge brings medicine to Sunriver
July 18, 2019 by User 0 Comments

Melissa Etheridge brings medicine to Sunriver

via Bend BulletinWhen the going gets tough, Melissa Etheridge turns up the guitar.

After the soulful experimentation of 2014’s “This is M.E.” and 2016’s covers set “MEmphis Rock and Soul,” Etheridge brought back the rootsy hard rock of her mid-’90s breakthrough albums “Yes I Am” and “Your Little Secret” on her 15th studio album, “The Medicine Show.” Produced by frequent collaborator and one-time bandmate John Shanks, the album finds the “I’m the Only One” singer in typical form, balancing the political and personal throughout its 11 tracks.

“I really made an effort to make this a very classic (album),” Etheridge said recently from a tour stop in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “I looked back: What did people love about those albums that were so huge — ‘Yes I Am,’ my first couple (of) albums and ‘Your Little Secret?’ It’s the songs, just simple, straight-forward rock songs played with the guitar.”

Etheridge, who will return to the Central Oregon area Wednesday to play the John Gray Amphitheater at the Sunriver Homeowners Aquatic & Recreation Center, certainly has a lot to sing about in the age of Trump. The longtime advocate for gay rights and environmental issues addresses these topics throughout “The Medicine Show” on songs such as the anthemic title track and “Woman Like You,” a love song that feels revolutionary simply for featuring a woman narrator expressing her feelings to another woman.

Etheridge came out as gay publicly in the early ’90s, but talked about getting her start as a musician playing at gay bars in Hollywood during a June LGTBQ roundtable interview in Entertainment Weekly. In the interview, she recalled Island Records founder Chris Blackwell asking her when he signed her to the label, “What are we gonna do about this gay thing?” and then telling her, “Well, as long as you don’t flag-wave.” “Woman Like You” brings things full circle in many ways.

“That’s a song of a few years learning a lesson,” Etheridge said. “That’s a song of being comfortable with talking about past relationships and being in a relationship with a woman, first of all. Yet I’m really speaking about women in the ’80s and the ’90s that really were relying on their looks. I hung out with a lot of movie stars and a lot of people (for whom) that was their currency, is how they looked, and things are different now, and what are you doing now? And how it’s not about just that anymore, and how there’s a lot that a woman of age and a woman of wisdom can give.”

Hard-rocking tracks such as “Shaking” and “Wild and Lonely” would suggest Etheridge understandably has some pent-up anger about the current situation in the U.S. and beyond, but listening to the songs (and speaking to her) reveal a much different outlook. As she has toured with her band — drummer Eric Gardner, bassist David Santos and multi-instrumentalist Max Hart — she has noticed more unity among people in the towns she visits than division, she said.

“I’m standing here in Ann Arbor, which is a college town, and I see amazing diversity,” Etheridge said. “I see people of all different shades of melatonin walking around, all different ethnicities. Just right now as we’re talking, I saw a person of color, I saw two — I mean, just, it’s this beautiful mix, and it’s comfortable, and it’s fine. And I go from town to town, and yeah, there’ll be some towns that are predominately white, but there’s always — they are embracing an out lesbian musician. I wish everyone could see what I see, because I see a great amount of hope, and I have a great amount of hope.”

The album’s title reflects this. The songs are primarily “about health, wellness, cannabis, this new thought, new paradigm, however you want to talk about it, however you want to understand it,” as Etheridge put it in a news release announcing the album.

“I think that people are looking to things like music and entertainment to help them make sense of things, to help relieve them — to have some soothing effect on them,” she said.

So far, fans have responded positively to the throwback sound and the messages in the songs.

“The hardcore fans will always dig what I do and really catch onto it,” Etheridge said. “And then sometimes, it takes years for them to (say), ‘Hey, will you play that song from that (2010) album, “Fearless Love?”’ And you’re like, oh, you actually, finally got it. This album, a larger majority of the audience has already bought it, they already know the songs, (and) they’re already singing it with me, and that is really thrilling.”

Etheridge, who has played more lead guitar live and in the studio since tackling all guitar parts on her 2012 album “4th Street Feeling,” reunited with Shanks almost by accident. Shanks last produced “Fearless Love” for Etheridge, and served as guitarist in her band in the late ’80s and early ’90s before branching out as a producer and songwriter.

“I went in (to the studio); I played the drums and laid down tracks and built these songs, and it all came from me and I love that,” Etheridge said. “And I got to a certain point where I was like, OK, now what am I gonna do? And then John Shanks literally shows up backstage somewhere and says, ‘Hey, I didn’t know you were here.’ And he says, ‘I’ve got this great studio.’ Hey, let’s do it. Bam, OK, and we were off. He has a way of just adding such air under my wings. … He’s got a sound — a beautiful sort of palette that he lays down.”

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