Album Review

Jo Carol Pierce - Bad Girls Upset by the Truth

Jo Carol Pierce - Bad Girls Upset By The Truth

Anyone committed to serious exploration of the artistry extolled in this learned journal must eventually confront the question: Why Lubbock? How did a city notorious for its repressive conservatism -- even by Texas standards -- inspire such a wealth of maverick twang, from Buddy Holly to Joe Ely, Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore? How have so many songwriters who couldn't wait to leave Lubbock remained so profoundly twisted by it? Such mysteries are central to Jo Carol Pierce's Bad Girls Upset by the Truth, a performance piece of such radical creativity that even fans of alternative country might find it a little too alternative. The respect that Pierce enjoys among her peers was shown by Dejadisc's star-studded tribute, Across the Great Divide: Songs of Jo Carol Pierce, and the subsequent duet of her "Reunion" by Jimmie Dale Gilmore (Pierce's first husband) and Lucinda Williams. For full resonance, however, Pierce's material requires the confessional context provided here, and the shaky vocals that conjure a sweet surrealism beyond the realm of polished professionalism. The narrative begins with Jo Carol's suicide and culminates with her giving birth, in a Lubbock supermarket, to a baby girl Jesus. In between, the performance finds her spreading God's love among 157 perfect boys ("each of them is just another side of Jesus .... and I need to know Jesus fully"). It's a spiritual mission that puts her at odds with society in general and her more monogamy-minded suitors in particular. Mostly, Bad Girls is a hoot, though the profound blasphemy that informs "I Blame God" and "Vaginal Angel" takes religiosity a lot more seriously than does the lip-service Christianity that would condemn it. While the supporting cast includes producer Troy Campbell (of Loose Diamonds, who took their name from one of the songs contained herein), David Halley, former Reiver Kim Longacre, Jennifer Warnes and Stephen Bruton, the show is Jo Carol's -- a triumph of creative nerve over musical limitations. As Gilmore once told me, "We all knew that Jo Carol would be famous, even back in high school. We just never imagined it would be for her songs.''