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Since I was embarrassingly young I've had a mild obsession with the female voice (among other things). This is my list of the most interesting voices I've ever heard. I highly recommend anything that any of them have done, but I've included a few choice recordings you can buy.  Please see our disclaimer and feel free to send us your comments.

Strange Angels

Live In New York

Laurie Anderson - Laurie is a performance artist who has her fingers in a lot of pies. She is possibly best known for her political "public service announcements" that used to be aired on MTV. She uses technology in interesting ways to alter her voice and to provide a techno ambience to her songs. There is a famous concert video of her show Home of the Brave that is absolutely riveting. It's been long out of print, but you might find a copy in an older alternative video store. Her CD Strange Angels is considered pivotal in her career as it marked a transition from her older more abstract or thematic work toward a more song-oriented musical direction. 

Official website

Fan site

The 1977 album

The Best of Karla (1999)

Karla Bonoff - Singer/Songwriter. I first came across a radio station demo copy of Karla's first solo album around 1977. The obvious thing I noticed was this lady was singing all of Linda Ronstadt's songs, but a whole lot better. Turns out she wrote all those songs that made Ronstadt famous, like "I Can't Hold On", "Home" and "Someone to Lay Down Beside Me."  Every tune on this album was a tour de force in pure original songwriting every bit the equal of anything Carole King ever wrote. While not as prolific as her fans would wish, Karla has continued to be active as a performer and songwriter, and in recent years has partnered again with old friends Kenny Edwards and Wendy Waldman in a revival of their early 70's group called Bryndle.

Official Karla Bonoff Site

Hounds of Love
(+6 Bonus Tracks)
(Originally 1985)

The Sensual World

Kate Bush - Alternative/Pop soprano. I first saw Kate on a Saturday Night Live program in December 1978. She was singing while having an apparent autoerotic experience of some kind on top of a piano (this may be a faulty memory, but that's certainly how it seemed to me). What's not to love? Kate is an Irish artist of extraordinary depth and sensuality. Her music is complex, exciting and, well, the blood is rushing from my head even as I write. Don't get me wrong - it's not just the sensuality. She's a real musician with a unique vision and a wonderful voice. She will often piece together her arrangements like a crazy quilt or decoupage. Her Hounds of Love (1985) is considered a classic. I  personally really love her Sensual World, on which she performs on top of bagpipes, Bulgarian singers, etc. If you really want to go ape for Kate, buy the $208 boxed set of eight CD's: This Woman's Work Anthology 1978 - 1990.

NEW! After 12 years, Kate has released another masterpiece. Her new double CD, Aerial, just confirms her status as an ultradiva.


Fan Site 

Now & Then (1980)

Feather River

Lorraine Duisit - Folk soprano. Formerly with the acoustic folk band Trapezoid, Lorraine has a sweet, innocent voice that makes me melt. Her solo album, Hawks and Herons (available on cassette from Rounder Records) is a wonderful selection of mostly original songs, accompanied on occasion by the great Howard Levy on harmonica, a blending of soaring melody that really works. Lorraine also plays a mean mandolin, bowed psaltery and folk harp. Her Trapezoid recordings with Freyda Epstein are especially wonderful. Now & Then (1980) was not their most recent, but I think it's the best. Lorraine's soprano and Freyda's rich contralto are a beautiful match. Feather River is the duo album with her husband Tom Espinola.

The Mirror Pool


Lisa Gerrard - In collaboration with Brendan Perry, Lisa Gerrard is half of the duo Dead Can Dance. Lisa released her first solo CD The Mirror Pool in 1995. Lisa has an astounding  voice that is clearly influenced by many ethnic musics including Arabic, Indian and Eastern European traditions. Her songs are similarly eclectic, sometimes combining bagpipes with Greek bouzoukis and tablas. Her music is often described as dark or mourning. She is often used to add a flavor of exotica or ethnicity in motion picture soundtracks, notably Gladiator, Ali, and Mission Impossible II

Official Site 

Dead Can Dance

  The King's Delight: 17 c. Ballads For Voice & Violin Band (1994)

Pavaniglia, Dances & Madrigals from 17th Century

Ellen Hargis - Soprano. Sings early music with the King's Noyse, the Harp Consort, lutenist Paul O'Dette and other early music ensembles. I first heard her on an NPR radio program while driving across rural southern Alabama. I had to pull off the road and listen until she was done. There is something absolutely captivating about her voice - it's clear and subtly emotional, highly skilled with perfect intonation and difficult ornamentation that still sounds natural and relaxed. I have since seen her perform a number of times with King's Noyse and other early music ensembles. She brings the music alive.

Ellen Hargis Official Site

King's Noyse Official Site



Annie Lennox - Formerly with the Eurythmics, Annie has a knack for theatricality and panache. She has created some very influential music videos which are high art in themselves. Her voice has a slight edge with obvious soul influences. Her songs are sometimes torchy (as in No More "I Love You's", from Medusa), sometimes hard-driving, sometimes exquisitely beautiful (as in her rendition of A Whiter Shade of Pale). Annie's latest CD is Bare, a mature and sumptuous feast.


Annie Lennox Fan Site 

Eurythmics Fan Site


Like Rufus Wainwright, Nellie McKay was born about thirty years too late. She may look like a winsome teenager on the cover of "Get Away From Me," but she's got the soul and grit of Ethel Merman, mincing her way through drawing room dramas and musical conflagrations with more subtlety, wit, and better personal politics than Eminen, but with similar results--most stunningly on "Sari," where she perfectly melds the ire of Missy Elliot with the goofiness of Moon Unit Zappa on this edgy rap song. McKay quickly changes personas becoming a torchy siren on her paean to domesticity "I Wanna Get Married," wearing her irony as lightly--and as transparently--as a see-through negligee. -Jaan Uhelszki,

Official Site

Fan Site

All recordings by Nellie McKay


Turbulent Indigo

Joni Mitchell - I don't really need to say much about Joni. She is an icon of the 60's & 70's folk/rock generation. Her music is quintessentially personal and melodic. She sang at Woodstock. Bill and Hillary named their daughter after her song Chelsea Morning. I chose two very different albums to show how her style developed from the girl-with-a-guitar to a sophisticated artist. Her voice has gotten smokier in recent years, but she still has her distinctive painterly vision. 

Fan Site

Dolmen Music (1980)

Our Lady of Late

Meredith Monk - Meredith is a complex artist. She has made a documentary film about Ellis Island and coached opera companies in extended vocal techniques. She rarely uses text in her vocalizations, but her syllables are not arbitrary. One of the most astonishing things she does is a technique called "hocketing". A hocket is a compositional device invented in the renaissance (from the Old English word for hiccough) in which different voices sing the different notes in a melody line. When Meredith does this with one or two other singers it's a rapid and difficult process that requires intense concentration. When I've seen this live it has been very exciting - you can't imagine how they keep from stepping on each others' notes. Her performances often include eccentric theatrical elements. I highly recommend you see her live if at all possible.

Official site

Chelsea Girl (1967)

The Marble Index (1969)

Nico - Pop contralto. Nico was one of the early discoveries of Andy Warhol. A svelte, gorgeous German blonde model with a dark and mysterious voice. She appeared on the famous first Velvet Underground LP (The Velvet Underground & Nico) with the peelable Warhol banana on the front cover. She later recorded a number of solo albums with help from John Cale, Jackson Browne, et al. Her work with Velvet Underground was suitably dark and weighty. Chelsea Girl was more folksy, even including a song by Bob Dylan. Marble Index followed shortly after and was a stark departure with an obvious electronic dissonant influence of producer Cale. Nico died in 1988. 

Fan Site

  Eli & The 13th Confession (Expanded)(1968) 

New York Tendaberry (Expanded)(1969)

Laura Nyro - Jazz/pop soprano. A brilliant and under appreciated artist, Laura had a profound influence on many singers. Always more successful with musicians, critics and other cognoscenti than with the public, her best known work was made famous by other artists, such as Blood, Sweat and Tears, Barbra Streisand, Three Dog Night, et al. But Laura had an individual style that is extremely engaging. Early in her career Laura retired from public life and became fairly reclusive. She died of cancer in 1997. 

Official Site

Fan Site

Building the Colossus (1994)

Many Worlds Are Born Tonight (1998)

Happy Rhodes - Pop/alternative.

"I don't sing because I've found it, I sing because I'm looking for it."
Serenading Genius

I adore Happy. I listen to her recordings often and they are among the very few that I never tire of. Her voice has an astonishing range from a rich contralto to a breathy high soprano, often in harmony with each other. If you hear someone ask "Who's that guy singing with Kate Bush?" (a comment from her long-time producer, Kevin Bartlett), they're both Happy.

Aside from being a superb singer, her songs have a unique quality of dark beauty. It is fairly obvious that she suffers from depression and existential angst and that she uses her emotional depths as a source for her art. Having said that, there is also such clarity and grace that her melancholy seems at some level to delight her, to be a sort of ornate gift. She's the kind of person who doesn't work easily with others - she has her own vision and she knows how to make it happen and she'd just as soon you wouldn't interfere. If you can't help, just get out of her way. At the same time she craves recognition and understanding. I think she gets a lot of emotional support from her fiercely loyal cult of devotees (of which I consider myself one) - perhaps more than she'd like to admit.

Happy's lyrics are sometimes mythical, sometimes psychotherapeutic. They are about alienation and control and hope. I think of her music as equivalent to science fiction; not in any overt way, but in the way it plays with my mind.

I have resonance with Happy on so many levels. She abandoned the traditional education system to follow her bliss and to succeed on her own terms. She is a Star Trek fan (TNG, of course). She sometimes suffers debilitating bouts of depression and anxiety, but when she immerses herself in her music, she is healed. See her web site at Auntie Social Music and buy her music.

 Official Site

When I Was a Boy

Love Is Everything: Anthology

Jane Siberry - A Canadian artist with yet another unique voice. I really don't know a lot about her. Her Love Is Everything: An Anthology is a good retrospective of her work - 30 songs on two discs and a 52-page book. 

Official Site

Fan Site


The young Russian born singer Regina Spektor sings beautiful, sophisticated songs in a similar manner as Nellie McKay, but with a slight accent that colors her whole sound.

Regina Spektor on MySpace

Official Site

 See all recordings by Regina Spektor

Adiemus: Songs of Sanctuary


Miriam Stockley  - I know essentially nothing about this artist beyond the fact that she is the amazing vocalist on the Adiemus recordings created by Karl Jenkins. She sings in styles both Celtic and African (sometimes simultaneously). 

Miriam Stockley Official Site

Adiemus Officially Sanctioned Fan Page


Vienna Teng is a brilliant young songwriter at the top of her game. Her songs are exquisitely crafted and at times almost painfully beautiful. The deliberately odd dissonances in the song "I Don't Feel So Well" on Dreaming Through the Noise are so stunningly weird in a smoky film noir kind of way that it is hard to believe it works so well.

Official SIte

Vienna Teng on MySpace

 See all recordings by Vienna Teng


Wailin' Jennys - Folk trio. Three Canadian singer-songwriters with already established careers who first got together for a one-shot gig in 2002 and, to their surprise, discovered that their voices blended in an almost magical harmony.

Official site


Updated 01/21/07