NEWS! Pamela Means wins competition!
Best Singer-Songwriter • 2013 Beloit Int'l Film Festival
"So what sets [Pamela Means] apart from other Martin-armed songwriters who are pretty convinced they have a way with poetry and angst? For starters, Means plays a snarling, energetic guitar. She's got chops - more than the other gentle pickers of her ilk will ever have. Means' voice is hard-wired to her heart: emotional, raw, angry when it needs to be, yet supple and warm as an embrace. The truth may not always be pretty, but Means is a stunningly effective messenger." - Oregon Live, Portland OR
Pamela Means, singer-songwriter & jazz musician, with her "mad-guitar-and-vocal skills" (Time Out New York) has toured throughout the US, Canada, Europe and Australia, selling well over 12,000 units of her seven independent releases along the way. Means's latest album, Precedent, elegantly addresses a range of themes from the state of the union to the state of the heart. Curve Magazine calls her "one of the fiercest guitar players and politically-rooted singer-songwriters in the music industry today."
A multi-talented performer, singer, songwriter, composer and producer, Pamela Means's multiple honors include being named Falcon Ridge Folk Festival's "# 1 Most Wanted New Artist," "Wisconsin Folk Artist of the Year," "Wisconsin Female Vocalist of the Year," and her politically provocative album, Single Bullet Theory, was voted 2004's "Outmusic Outstanding New Recording." Pamela Means was twice voted "Best Acoustic Act" of the year in her hometown of Milwaukee, WI; and after setting up shop in the bustling 'burbs of Boston, Mass., Pamela was nominated for an "Outstanding Contemporary Folk Artist" Boston Music Award.
Consistently evolving and pushing further, with drive, skill, and ambition; Pamela Means also garnered acclaim with her seminal jazz recording, the "insanely brilliant" (Press Herald, Portland ME), Pamela Means Jazz Project, Vol. 1, in which, "Means takes her rightful place among contemporary superstar jazz vocalists such as Cassandra Wilson and Norah Jones" (Curve Magazine). Pamela Means Jazz Project, Vol. 1 was also named a "Top Ten Album of 2007" (Muruch Entertainment Blog).
From recording her first tape in the living room of Violent Femmes bassist Brian Ritchie, Pamela Means has since shared the stage with artists including Ani DiFranco, Pete Seeger, Indigo Girls, Joan Baez, Howard Zinn, Angela Davis, Eve Ensler, David Strathairn, Neil Young, Shawn Colvin, Richie Havens, Patty Larkin, Melissa Ferrick, Violent Femmes, Television, The Radiators, Adrian Belew, Leo Kottke and Janis Ian. Pamela Means has performed at notable venues such as the Newport, Falcon Ridge and Clearwater Folk Festival(s), SXSW Music Conference and, internationally, at the eminent Woodford Folk Festival (Australia), Stockholm Pride (Sweden) and Jazz Cafe Alto (The Netherlands). Pamela Means has also composed and licensed music to PBS, independent filmmakers and contributed musically to folkpoet Alix Olson's multi-award-winning film and CD projects.
With virtuosic musicianship, razor wit and a disarming sense of humor, Pamela Means is building a vibrant and remarkable career, delighting audiences from Anchorage to Amsterdam, Sydney (AU) to New York. Plus, Ani DiFranco says of Pamela Means, "you groove so deep, so deep I can't get out. And I wouldn't want to." We guarantee you won't want to either.
Best Singer-Songwriter • 2013 Beloit Int'l Film Festival
Top Ten Albums of the Year (Pamela Means Jazz Project, Vol. 1)
Wisconsin Folk Artist of the Year
Wisconsin Female Vocalist of the Year
Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Most Wanted New Artist
Outmusic Outstanding New Recording • Female (Single Bullet Theory)
(2-time) Milw WI Shepherd Express Reader’s Poll Best Acoustic Act
Boston Music Award Nominee Outstanding Contemporary Folk
Indie Gods of Guitar Competition • Silver Award
Newport Folk Festival
Falcon Ridge Folk Festival
SXSW Music Conference
University of Alaska Anchorage AK
Wesleyan University Middletown CT
Haverford College Haverford PA
Florida State University Tallahassee FL
Brown University Providence RI
Scripps College Claremont CA
Portland State University Portland OR
Smith College Northampton MA
Cornell University Ithaca NY
Ithaca College Ithaca NY
Boston University Boston MA
Amherst College Amherst MA
Hampshire College Hadley MA
Mount Holyoke College Hadley MA
Washington University St. Louis MO
UVM Burlington VT
Higher Ground Burlington VT
Michigan Womyn's Music Fest Hart MI
Humboldt State University Arcata CA
University of Tennessee Knoxville TN
Club Passim Cambridge MA
Iron Horse Music Hall Northampton MA
Schuba's Chicago IL
Riverside Theater Milwaukee WI
Summerfest Milwaukee WI
Historic Mountain Winery Saratoga CA
Sunset Tavern Seattle WA
Tractor Tavern Seattle WA
Genghis Cohen Los Angeles CA
Twiggs San Diego CA
Black Cat Washington DC
FILM & TELEVISION MUSIC PLACEMENTS
Cat's Dream XXI Century • 8 part PBS documentary about post-Sept 11 U.S. politics
Fund for Women Artists • documentary
Left Lane • On the Road with Folk Poet Alix Olson (documentary)
PAMELA MEANS - Acoustic guitar, Electric guitar, Vocals
Pamela Means Jazz Project, Vol. 1 (2006)
Single Bullet Theory (2003)
Bone Spurs (1995)
PBS • Century XXI, 8-part political documentary
Alix Olson • Built Like That (CD), Independence Meal (CD), Left Lane (DVD)
Fund for Women Artists • original score for promotional film
As well as numerous artist compilations
Ends justify the Means
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Pamela Means aims her songwriting skills like a gun. From the politics of sexual identity and race t...Pamela Means aims her songwriting skills like a gun. From the politics of sexual identity and race to the workplace and post-Katrina New Orleans, Means is an incisive lyricist, delivering her songs with sultry, nuanced vocals that positively seep into your skin, and ferocious acoustic guitar playing. And when she applies that amazing performance skill set to jazz standards, as she’s done a lot recently, the effect is positively breathtaking. Pamela Means performs at 7 p.m. Friday at the Vanilla Bean Café, Route 44, 169 and 97, Pomfret, Conn. (Victor D. Infante)
Getting to Know Pamela Means - Women in the Arts Festival performer on music, politics and how Janis Ian changed her life
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Curve Magazine has praised Pamela Means as "one of the fiercest guitar players and politically-roote...Curve Magazine has praised Pamela Means as "one of the fiercest guitar players and politically-rooted songwriters in the music industry today" - and ain't that the truth. The Brooklyn-based, internationally touring musician performs in East Lansing on Saturday, Nov. 13 during the Women in the Arts Festival.
We caught up with Means, who's performed several times previously in the area, about merging music with politics, growing up queer in a segregated city, and what she learned from Janis Ian.
You're known for integrating the fight for social justice into your performances. Why are you so passionate about these social issues?
My first girlfriend in Boston gave me bell hooks and Audre Lorde books, which brought into severe focus the pain and rage I had held inside growing up a biracial, queer kid in hyper-segregated greater Milwaukee. I began to write honestly about my own world, my true feelings and experiences, and about the world as I saw it. From then on, I committed myself to being honest and outspoken throughout my work, whether (it be) a song about governmental corruption or a love song to a woman. My life and identity is, by default, on the periphery, and so follows my work.
How does music play into social justice?
Music is a seductive way to introduce and inspire thought and action concerning myriad political topics. One can address serious subjects without climbing onto a monotonous soapbox. Clever lyrics can put a pointed sentiment behind a delicious groove that makes the medicine go down.
Which songs of yours, inspired by these issues, is especially important to you? And why?
"Two Halves" from the album "Single Bullet Theory" addresses sanctioned racial profiling, and "Amen," also from "Single Bullet Theory," personalizes the USA Patriot Act. My newest album, "Precedent," features a snapshot of Hurricane Katrina aftermath and a few love songs, including "Virago Plains" - with the proper pronouns intact.
You've shared the stage with lots of generation-spanning, queer female musicians, from Melissa Ferrick to Janis Ian. What have you learned from them?
I've learned a lot about engaging with the audience - especially touring for two years with Alix Olson! I used to be really shy and stare at the floor, but now I enjoy myself a lot more and I'm not afraid to speak up and tell stories and corny jokes. I was also particularly inspired by a Janis Ian workshop where she introduced using effects pedals with the acoustic guitar. I've never been the same since!
Pamela Means, CD review
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Pamela Means juggles both unabashedly outraged, subtly layered acoustic folk and excursions into jaz...Pamela Means juggles both unabashedly outraged, subtly layered acoustic folk and excursions into jazz, so her first release with the Pamela Means Jazz Project occupied the long gap between 2003's Single Bullet Theory and 2009's album of original songs, Precedent. As if admitting that she has plenty of strife to catch up on, she begins with a song simply titled "New Orleans," and, as always, frequently reminds listeners that being stuck alone with an acoustic guitar is an opportunity for everything from playful rags ("Amsterdam") to elegant, percussive ripples of melody and harmonics ("Virago Plains"). Means isn't easy to peg as simply a lefty songwriter: She brings a reflective heft to all her tunes, polemical or otherwise.
Precedent CD Review
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Pamela Means’s latest release Precedent came to me accompanied by a Frida Kahlo postcard with a note...Pamela Means’s latest release Precedent came to me accompanied by a Frida Kahlo postcard with a note from Pamela claiming the album is “back to acoustic basics”. But these songs are anything but basic. As always, Pamela recorded each song live in studio without edits or overdubs.
Pamela’s deep acoustic strum rips open “New Orleans”. The lyrics address the horrors surrounding Hurricane Katrina, and the injustices that the residents of the city continue to suffer. Her soft voice and subtle phrasing allow the fierceness of her guitar playing to convey the song’s sad message.
“Amsterdam” eases the tension by sliding back into the jazzy sound of her previous release Jazz Project Vol. 1, which is very complimentary to the rich tone of her voice.
“Love and Dust” and “Fireflies” are pretty acoustic ballads, but tracks like “California” and “Cold Ass M.F.” (of which there are two versions) simmer with the unique heat that only Pamela Means - and perhaps Ani Difranco - can sear into an acoustic guitar.
The moody cover of Peter Mulvey’s “On The Way Up” is a nice surprise. “Patchwork” has the kind of hushed intimacy of a live performance at a local bookstore or coffeehouse. But it’s “Virago Plains” that truly showcases the intricacy of Means’ guitar work.
Pamela Means: Still On the Way Up
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by David Luhrssen The first time I saw Pamela Means, she was absorbed with her acoustic guitar in...by David Luhrssen
The first time I saw Pamela Means, she was absorbed with her acoustic guitar in the dim backstage of Shank Hall, quietly working out a chord progression. She was ready to open for someone else's show (if memory serves). It was the early nineties and Means was already making her name in Milwaukee's neo-folk-acoustic-whatever scene, flourishing on the fringes of rock clubs, poetry readings and bookstores.
Since leaving town in the mid-90's, Means has toured the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia, on her own and sharing stages with Ani DiFranco, Neil Young, Joan Baez, Shawn Colvin, Patty Larkin, Richie Havens, Janis Ian, Violent Femmes and Pete Seeger. She was on the cover of Curve Magazine and was featured in the Da Capo Press book "I Got Thunder: Black Women Songwriter's & Their Craft," along with Odetta, Nina Simone, Chaka Khan, Angelique Kidjo, Miriam Makeba, Dionne Warwick and Shemekia Copeland, among others.
With the release of her seventh indie CD, "Precedent," comes another tour, including a swing through her old hometown. "I've expanded what I do by going deeper into the jazz I studied at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music," she says, speaking of her creative evolution since leaving Milwaukee.
The jazz influence is up front on "Amsterdam," a lovely slice of cafe jazz, complete with brushed drums, conjuring up a lazy day of demitasse by the canal and a ramble through the old port city. Much of "Precedent" works in the Joan Armatrading / Tracy Chapman vein of pointed lyrics set to forceful, strummed melodies. But the stark, descending chords of "New Orleans," an angry jab at government neglect in the wake of Katrina, wouldn't sound out of place in mood next to Led Zeppelin's take on "When the Levee Breaks." And in "Cold Ass M.F.," offered in two versions, slippery jazz walks with stuttering funk. Means also records a song by fellow expatriate Peter Mulvey, "On the Way Up."
"Precedent" includes no less than three place songs, "Amsterdam," "New Orleans" and "California." Any significance to this? "Each geographical song came after visiting the place," she explains. "Each one addresses a different theme. 'California' is a queer little love song, plus I think it's a rule for every songwriter to pen at least one California tune during their career."
"'Amsterdam,' is my seminal jazz composition, and 'New Orleans' was written during the Bush administration," she continues. "It's a reflection of visiting the city, meeting survivors of Katrina and hearing terribly horrific stories. Even though I'm full of Obama-phoria, we still have work to do, and New Orleans is still one place that needs forefront attention."
Concert Preview, Portland ME
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PAMELA MEANS, besides having a fantastic head of hair, is an east coast singer-songwriter who has be...PAMELA MEANS, besides having a fantastic head of hair, is an east coast singer-songwriter who has been tearing it up with her acoustic guitar and charged lyrics. In the middle of all this, she released a much applauded jazz record [Pamela Means Jazz Project, Vol. 1] in 2007 with an insanely brilliant "My Funny Valentine" and an inspired take on Nina Simone's "Four Women."
Means's latest record is the all-acoustic "PRECEDENT." It is home to a dozen songs, including the breezy "Amsterdam," the poignant "Love and Dust" and the intriguing "Virago Plains."
CD Review; Pamela Means Jazz Project
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On this eight-track disc comprised mostly of jazz standards, the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter ve...On this eight-track disc comprised mostly of jazz standards, the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter veers off in a different --though not unfamiliar to her direction. Though many have come to know and love her as one of the fiercest guitar players and politically rooted folk singers in the music industry today, her roots are in jazz; she trained classically at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music before heading to Boston to make her mark on the folk scene there.
With her skillful delivery of snappy lounge classics like "All of Me", "Fly Me to the Moon" and "Sunny Side of the Street," interspersed with intense renderings of sparse vocal ballads like "My Funny Valentine" and "I Got It Bad," Means takes her rightful place among contemporary superstar jazz vocalists such as Cassandra Wilson and Norah Jones.
My personal favorite is her breathy take on Nina Simone's "Four Women," though the jazzified version of her funky original "My Love" comes in a close second.
CD Review; Pamela Means Jazz Project
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Top Ten Album of 2007 Pamela Means’ Jazz Project Vol. 1 is a pleasantly surprising collection of ...Top Ten Album of 2007
Pamela Means’ Jazz Project Vol. 1 is a pleasantly surprising collection of revamped jazz standards. Surprising because I came to know of her through her guitar work with poet Alix Olson, which adds a fierce folk-punk tone to Olson’s spoken word. The Pamela Means Jazz Project goes in an entirely different direction with smoky vocals and deep jazz rhythms. The band consists of Means on vocal and guitar, Anand Nayak on bass, and Sturgis Cunningham on drums. The trio recorded the album live in studio with no overdubs or edits, and released it on Means’ independent label Wirl Records.
Billie Holiday and Nina Simone are two of my favourite singers of all time, and I think most people would agree that those ladies were in a class of their own. So it takes a lot of courage and an even larger amount of talent for a modern singer to successfully cover songs that Billie and Nina made famous. Pamela Means tackles both Billie’s upbeat “All of Me” and Nina’s deeper “Four Women” on this album, and amazingly she does both well. And while I never much cared for Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” before, Pamela’s sultry velvet voice transforms the classic into a torch song.
I was also surprised and impressed by her cover “My Funny Valentine”. Though the song holds special significance to me for personal reasons, I rarely like contemporary covers of it. Give me Chet Baker or Etta James, but the song usually sounds unimaginative and monotonous when sung by anyone else. Means, however, manages to refresh this old ode to unconditional love by giving it a deep new bass heart.
“My Love” is the only original song by Pamela Means on the disc. The smooth blend of Pamela’s jazzy vocals and funky bass rhythm enable the track to stand out as the modern work that it is while at the same time fitting right in with the classic covers that make up the rest of the album. A low key cover of Duke Ellington’s “I Got It Bad” gently closes the album.
"Means is, quite simply, superb."
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PAMELA MEANS: SINGLE BULLET THEORY WIRL RECORDS WIRL1005-D(42m 07) Strolling through Harvard Sq...PAMELA MEANS: SINGLE BULLET THEORY
Strolling through Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachussetts recently, my ears were tickled by some very tasty acoustic guitar picking and an exceptionally passionate voice drifting through the midday air. The sound was emanating from busker Pamela Means, and I stopped to listen. Excellent buskers are ten a penny in Cambridge, which is one of the biggest centres of folk music in the States. Every 60s folkie worth his/her salt played the coffee houses here, and it's where Tracy Chapman emerged from in the 90s, so to be worth stopping for in Harvard Square, you've got to be very special indeed.
Means is, quite simply, superb and, if there's any justice in the world, I won't see her on a street corner next time. Her guitar playing is very tasty indeed, her songs are powerfully melodic and beautifully constructed, her lyrics kick hard, and her voice ranges from tender to seething to outraged, depending on her subject matter. "O.D.", about how American oil policies precipitated the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, is a must-hear; "Restless" is a gorgeous love song set to ridiculously speedy picking and her version of Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" is heart-rending. The album isn't widely available here yet, but you can get it through Amazon or, better yet, via her website, www.pamelameans.com
Johnny Black A:1* HiFi News Magazine, London UK
"armed with...an acoustic guitar that she plays so hard she's worn a hole in it."
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Boston political rocker Pamela Means promotes new album in Chicago at the Heartland Cafe, 7000 N. Gl...Boston political rocker Pamela Means promotes new album in Chicago at the Heartland Cafe, 7000 N. Glenwood Ave.
By Jamie Murnane
As the sound of the rattling Red Line cut through the silence of a packed house, Pamela Means burst through the doors five minutes before her scheduled performance at the Heartland Cafe. All eyes were on Means—who looked as fierce as the impending snowstorm.
The snowstorm never came. Likewise, Means, a biracial musician based in Boston, isn’t as tough as she looks.
However, she is originally from “hyper-segregated, conservative and predictable [Milwaukee],” as she puts it. Means said she had to get out of Milwaukee to continue growing as an artist and make a living of playing her music.
“I experienced a lot of racism growing up...I had a lot to write songs about inside of me, but I don’t think I really started to bloom as a songwriter until I moved to Boston and had time and distance to delve into my own history,” Means said.
When she finally took the Heartland Cafe stage, she was armed with her trademark afro and an acoustic guitar that she plays so hard she’s worn a hole in it. Some people would think it’s time for a new guitar, but Means isn’t parting with her so-called “holey” Martin anytime soon.
“Wood ages on a guitar and they just sound better and better over time. I’m going to drive it ’til it dies,” she said. For a minute during the show, it seemed the guitar had died, when her reckless strumming and picking knocked off an acoustic amplifier. Fortunately, someone in the audience came to the rescue—screwdriver in hand.
Not only did Means effortlessly open the audience’s ears, she opened their minds as well. She sang about a variety of topics that affect people everywhere, including the country’s recent orange alert.
“Did you all go out and get your duct tape,” she asked. The crowd responded with laughter. “Because apparently that’s all we need,” she added.
Means’ musical influences include Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Me’shell Ndegeocello and Spearhead, to name a few.
“I love all kinds of music. I’m also greatly influenced by many writers like bell hooks, Audre Lorde and James Baldwin,” Means said.
When asked about what drives her as an artist, Means said, “I work to speak out on and shine a light on the darkness that will never go away unless it is first acknowledged, i.e. racism, homophobia, sexism, misogyny, classicism, etc. I also hope to inspire self-reflection and activism.”
Means’ new CD, Single Bullet Theory, is due in the spring, and is guaranteed to address issues many people are too afraid to bring up. Many of Mean’s newer songs, which she played at recent shows, will be on the album.
Means’ thought-provoking lyrics shine in her new songs including: “Two Halves” and “Amen,” a song about racial profiling.
Sets generally run from 45 - 90 minutes, depending on the gig. Singer/songwriter set lists are predominantly originals with a little jazz. Jazz gigs are mostly standards with a few originals featured.