Sarah Dougher

The Bluff (Mr. Lady)

Sarah Dougher has all the credentials to be a feminist icon. An openly lesbian singer-songwriter on the North Carolina-based label Mr. Lady, she's also a committed social activist, a college professor, and a member of the bands Cadallaca (with Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker) and the Crabs. Little wonder, then, that gay.com cites her as one of its "Women We Love."

So you enter a Dougher record knowing you're going to get thoughtful meditations on life, but what's surprising is how much fun she makes angst sound. With an endearingly thin, jangly, indie-pop sound reminiscent of cult heroes like the Nerves and the early dB's, Dougher's third solo record makes dark admissions like "Come home drunk and want to fight, I know I am a fool" and "You treat me like I'm uninvited" feel like pure three-minute bliss, teen thrills delivered by a tough-minded adult.

Dougher's voice is plain, but expressive: equal parts Liz Phair, Mary Timony, and Tucker. It's a dose of reality that undercuts the frequent bounciness of her music, and makes it more complex than its sources. Proving that she's not limited by the indie-rock aesthetic, she even demonstrates her sense of musical history by reviving the Allen Toussaint-penned, early '60s R&B obscurity "It's Raining." In Dougher's hands, it becomes the post-modern, lesbian love lament it was never meant to be.

 
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