Pittsburgh may be best known for producing historic sports teams, but the city has also produced its share of well-known male musicians and bands, including Donnie Iris, The Clarks and Bill Deasy. While these singers have skyrocketed to national-level fame, you can’t forget that Pittsburgh is also home to many of the region’s best female musicians as well. From buttery, bluesy vocalists to pre-teen singing sensations and rock divas, these five female musicians are worth checking out at their upcoming shows, many of which are free. In celebration of Women’s History Month, be sure these local female-fronted bands and singing songstresses are on your radar — or at least your iPod.
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Maura Jacob sure knows how to sing and with an eclectic sound that mixes electro, doom pop, art rock and surf, Action Camp presents an unusually pleasant combination of drama and intimacy in its music. Duo Jacob and Bengt Alexsander came together in 2006 finding inspiration in the influences of musicians like David Bowie and The Pixies as well as religion, folklore and their relationship with Pittsburgh and its distinctive history. Jacob, a classically trained vocalist, brings a hauntingly beautiful and original sound to Action Camp with songs like “You Don’t Even Know My Name” and “zero/one.”
Jill West & Blues Attack
Hear even a snippet of the amazing Jill West’s dynamic bluesy voice and you’ll understand why Pittsburgh blues band Jill West and Blues Attack has dominated the category of Best Blues Band in Pittsburgh for more than a decade. A blend of bold vocals, original keyboard compositions, hard-edged guitar and the heart-pounding rhythms of the drums have helped make Jill West and Blues Attack an unmatched force in the tri-state area. In February, West along with the four fellows who back this blues diva put out her latest CD “Bootleg Blues Live,” which will be available for purchase at the group’s upcoming shows.
Twelve-year-old Jackie Evancho is proof that sometimes big things come in small packages. At just ten years old, Evancho broke out of the Pittsburgh music scene where she made regular appearances at sporting events and local talent shows to earn national recognition after placing second on the fifth season of the talent competition “America’s Got Talent.” Since then, Evancho has become the best-selling artist of 2010 with her EP “O Holy Night,” earned the title of the youngest platinum-selling artist and has even sang for President Obama at the 2010 National Christmas Tree lighting in Washington, D.C. She recently released her latest studio album “Songs from the Silver Screen” and is touring the country performing songs from this album.
Of all the female musicians in the city, Pittsburgh’s Nina Sainato boasts perhaps the most interesting musical upbringing. In the Sainato household, music was truly a family affair; this classically trained pianist was raised by her jazz pianist mother and rock and roll father who Sainato credits as her number one fan and musical influence. Their impact can be heard in Sainato’s rocking vocals on her latest album “Holly & Ivory” that features a duet with fellow Pittsburgh musician Donnie Iris.
If fun had a sound, it would be the American root rock music of Rising Regina and its songstress sisters Jessica and Kiki Young. You can’t help but just feel good when listening to these ladies’ bubbly voices set to the upbeat, catchy harmonies and percussive beats of such songs as “Train to Anywhere” and “The Devil’s Brew Polka.” A blend of rock, jazz, Celtic, bluegrass and folk is what makes this female-fronted band among Pittsburgh’s most versatile and interesting groups.
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Jessica Wasik lives in Pittsburgh where works as a full-time figure skating coach sharing her passion with todays generation of young skaters. A graduate of Robert Morris University with a degree in English Studies, Jessica is also a contributing writer for Allegheny West Magazine. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.