Epiphany Project Epiphany Project
Epiphany Project
(Epiphany Records)

"The moon is rising over desert" sings Bet Williams at the opening of Epiphany Project's beautifully atmospheric self-titled album. That's a perfect visual description for the rich textures of Epiphany Project's music.

The musical partner of John Hodian, Williams sings in the milieu of Loreena McKennit, Milla and a number of the other earthy, folk-influenced bands that handled the more quietly exotic spectrum of Sarah McLachlan's Lilith Fairs. On "Jealousy," with its quite piano and low-voiced "de-de-die-da"s, she sounds reminiscient of Tori Amos, while on "Long Gray Line," she brings to mind McLachlan's "Angel."

The duo has collaborated on a number of projects over the past decade, as well as released solo discs through their Epiphany Records label. Their latest effort is a gorgeous collection of 14 songs, sold by Williams' full, sometimes throaty, sometimes whispery, sometimes soaring vocals. Anchored by Hodian's dramatic piano, with additional instrumentation on bass, percussion, guitar, cello and other strings by Hodian and a number of supporting players, Williams' emotive voice paints a warm tapestry of layered moods and melodies.


Betty Blowtorch - Are You Man Enough? Betty Blowtorch
Are You Man Enough?

There's a parental advisory sticker on this one, and with good reason. This all-girl punk rock act, helped along the music industry rails by Guns N' Roses' Duff McKagan, knows how to rock loud, lewd and obnoxious. They also know how to swear, and sing with racy gusto about one-night stands.

You can catch a sneak peak at them this summer as they play a metal band in the movie Bubble Boy.

Betty Blowtorch sounds like a cross between early Joan Jett and the long-lost sex-metal kittens The Pandoras (an all-girl band who, trivia fans will note, spawned the calmer, but still punky The Muffs). With fist-raising anthems like "Frankie" (where the girls rail "My boyfriend left me for the girl next door") and "No Integrity" (where they proclaim with wicked smiles "we've got no integrity, but we sure do look good") not to mention the perfect "hate your ex-" song in "I Wish You'd Die," Are You Man Enough? charges along with screamin' rock abandon.

Fans of the L.A. punk scene will recognize the names of three of Betty's members (Blare N. Bitch, Sharon Needles and Bianca Butthole), as well as one of this disc's songs ("I'm Ugly and I Don't Know Why") from an early '90s incarnation they once released a disc on Chrysalis/EMI as part of the goofball-punk outfit known as Butt Trumpet. Betty Blowtorch screams along as loudly as the Trumpet, but with a more straight-ahead metal vibe.

There are a couple songs that don't revolve around sex (the fiery "Hell on Wheels," the glam-smooth anthem "No Integrity" and the women's lib anthem "Dresses").

Featuring a bravely boastful rap by Vanilla Ice about his manly prowess on "Size Queen," and a homage to Lita Ford and the Sunset Strip big hair metal scene of the early '90s on "Big Hair, Broken Heart," this is a perfect album for shaking fists and annoying the neighbors. Play loud but with caution!

You cam catch Betty Blowtorch live tomorrow night at Chicago's Metro. For more information, check the label's Web site at www.foodchain-records.com.


New On The Shelves

While most bands look back at their careers with album retrospectives that feature their biggest hits, The Goo Goo Dolls have done it a little differently. What I Learned About Ego, Opinion, Art & Commerce (1987-2000) on Warner Bros., features a selection of 22 songs from their six studio albums.

But virtually none of these tracks have had strong runs on radio. "We are the Normal," from 1993's Superstar Carwash, is about the only exception, having helped to break the band on college radio. But instead of filling this disc with recent million-sellers like "Name," "Iris," "Black Balloon," "Dizzy" and "Slide," this album collects and remixes other strong rockin' album tracks from across the band's 13-year career. If you're a recent Goo Goos fan and don't want to buy four or five past albums to "catch up," this is a great compromise.