Flash Girls

I’m sure you know of Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks novel and Cats Laughing, the folk rock group she was a member of, but I’ll bet that you haven’t heard of the Flash Girls, which was her other group. And more’s the pity as you really should hear all three of their albums.

The Flash Girls are a long since defunct sort of folk, sort of trad, and delightfully strange music duo based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota where Emma and her husband, Will Shetterly, were living at the time. (Both War for the Oaks and Bone Dance are set in that city.) They pretty much ceased to exist when Emma and Will moved to California even though they performed a few times after that move.

Lorraine would go on to be a member of Folk Underground, a band that any fan of this group will appreciate it.

The duo consisted of Emma Bull, a noted science fiction author, and Lorraine Garland, also known as “The Fabulous Lorraine”. Garland is also notable as Neil Gaiman’s personal assistant; the group formed at a Guy Fawkes Day party at Gaiman’s home according to interviews in Hanging Out With the Dream King: Interviews with Neil Gaiman and His Collaborators.

The social connections that both Bull and Garland had with the science fiction and fantasy communities allowed them to have a diverse group of folks you’ll recognize writing songs for and with them, including Alan Moore (‘Me and Dorothy Parker’), Neil Gaiman (on one album alone, he gets credit or co-credit for ‘Riding the Flame/Little Beggarman’, ‘Tea and Corpses’, ‘Sonnet in the Dark’, and ‘The Herring Song’), and not at all surprisingly, Jane Yolen (‘Prince Charming Comes’) is here as a writer as she was on a Boiled in Lead album, Antler Dance, which her son, Adam Stemple, was vocalist on.

These songs are mixed in with their own original works, traditional songs such as ‘The Star of the County Down’ and ‘Twa Bonnie Maidens’, as well as some poems put to music, including works by A.A. Milne and Dorothy Parker. It was a charmingly eclectic mix that never was any less than entertaining.

Those same social connections resulted in superb guest musicians including Steven Brust, Lojo Russo, and Robin Adnan Anders, Todd Menton, Drew Miller, and Adam Stemple, all of Boiled in Lead fame. If you suspect that they sounded at times a bite like Cats Laughing, you wouldn’t be far off as they performed such Cats Laughing songs as ‘Signal to Noise’ which you can hear here.

Though their music can now be downloaded from Amazon, it is worth searching all three CDs, The Return of Pansy Smith and Violet Jones (1993), Maurice and I (1994), and Play Each Morning Wild Queen (2001), as the liner notes are highly fun to read and the artwork is wonderfully weird.

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