Born in Consort, Alberta, Canada, on November 2, 1961, Kathryn Dawn Lang grew up the youngest of four kids in a musical family. She remembers hours spent lying on the floor listening to albums from her next eldest sibling, Keltie: Linda Ronstadt, Cream, Delaney & Bonnie, Emmylou Harris, eventually graduating to singer-songwriters of her own choosing like Kate Bush and Rickie Lee Jones.
I have this complicated feeling about k.d. lang. On one hand, she has a truly wonderful voice in two distinct genres, country and the songs of the chaunteuse. On the other hand, I identify her music with my ex. A LOT.
I already had 1987’s Angel With a Lariat on vinyl and 1988’s Shadowland and 1989’s Absolute Torch and Twang on CD when I was telling her about the new songs on the radio. At first, she didn’t know who I was talking about, even though “Constant Craving” was constantly on the radio. But when I bought 1992’s Ingenue, and she did finally identify her sound, she went k.d. crazy, playing her music heavily, and buying magazines, purchasing – or maybe I purchased for her, since I am an enabler – 1984’s A Truly Western Experience, a fairly obscure album that doesn’t even show up on some discographies, as well as the 1993 soundtrack to Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. Western ends with a song called “Hooked on Junk”, a strange song which seemed at the time to come out of nowhere, compared to the more traditional country tunes on the album. Think of “You Know My Name” by the Beatles, or some other song on an album you’ve heard and said, “How’d THAT get on?”
“I was really into punk and performance art and singers like Jonathan Richman and the Roches, which is very different from where I ended up going…on my 21st birthday, two different people gave me Patsy Cline albums as a gift…Patsy was also getting hip in the gay circles at the time.”
So, when we split in 1994, I got Angel, Shadowland, Torch and Ingenue, as well as the Roy Orbison album that features k.d.’s duet of “Crying” the superior version of the song, I think; Red, Hot and Blue (the beautiful but mournful “So In Love”), the Dick Tracy soundtrack (the fun “Ridin’ the Rails” with Take 6); and Tame Yourself (the hard-to-categorize “Damned Old Dog”). Z got Western, Cowgirls, and some Coneheads movie soundtrack, plus all the print stuff.
I’ve continued to buy k.d.’s music:
1995 All You Can Eat
2000 Invincible Summer
2001 Live by Request
2004 Hymns of the 49th Parallel
Plus she has a duet on the Tony Bennett MTV album, another on the new Bennett Duets album, and a whole album of their duets together, 2003’s Wonderful World.
But now she has a retrospective album of her country period, Reintarnation, featuring songs from those 1984-1993 albums, excluding Ingenue, and it puts me right back in that period.
lang, a painter, showed up in a hand-painted shirt she made with the word ‘Patsy’ splashed across it in rough punk lettering as an homage to her new hero. It wasn’t until she got home after the audition and looked in the mirror that lang realized she’d misspelled and gotten the gig despite wearing a shirt that said ‘Pasty’.
The album cover, BTW, is evocative of a famous Elvis cover: go to this website, which you might have read about in Fred Hembeck’s post of April 2, 2005, and go to 978 – as of this writing – items are added constantly- for Elvis, and 980 for k.d., (oh, and 992 for The Clash).
In any case, I think I’ll wait to buy her NEXT album. Now YOU might consider getting this if you don’t have a lot of her country albums. It’s fun music that confounded the country music establishment of the time. No, it doesn’t include “Hooked on Junk”.
As lang put it, they couldn’t figure out if this shorthaired gal from Canada was making fun of them or trying to add some sizzle…
And the album has great liner notes, some of which I’ve copped.
Happy 45th birthday, k.d.
ALSO: The big 5-0 for my friend, the Hoffinator. Happy natal day.