Staring fear in the face
By Jonathan Hale
As music in the '90s begins to form a new style and sound, it still seems with the work of various artists, that certain aspects in music will never change. . . well, at least not totally.
Baltimore, Maryland's Disappear Fear has been creating music for the past nine years and while most of it follows along the folk ideology that was popularized in the '60s, the topics that are important to lead singer/guitarist Sonia Rutstein are not restricted to poor government leaders or the taxman. Instead, Rutstein sings about social issues important to her, the most important being her life as a homosexual Jewish female.
While the music is really quite beautiful, Rutstein believes there is only a certain level of success her act will ever be able to attain due to its lyrical content.
"I think generally that America is a bit old-fashioned," she says on the phone after just waking up. "So I think that commercial possibilities have been disregarded due to that ignorance."
This does not mean the act has not enjoyed a growing popularity in North America. Disappear Fear's first three albums produced by a lineup consisting of Rutstein and her sister Cindy Frank sold in excess of 30,000 copies. The band, based on its liberal views, has also been a part of different gay and lesbian shows and even appeared on Out Loud, an album that featured songs by Billy Bragg and U2.
Of the band's content, Rutstein feels she cannot deny her own beliefs and feelings as a means of selling more records. "I just made a declaration to myself that I was going to say what I want to say in my music and art."
As work began on the band's latest album, Seed in the Sahara, Cindy departed from the band to expand the size of her family, leaving Sonia to obtain new members to record the music on the latest release. This change, to Rutstein, has enhanced the focus of the music.
"Cindy and I sang harmonies all over the place on previous albums," Rutstein explains. "Our melodies were much related to our sound. Now, my voice is much more in the forefront of the music with a distinct difference between the melodies and harmonies."
The latest album contains a few distinct and unusually titled songs, but the one that stands out is "B.Y.O.G. (Bring Your Own God)." This very peaceful song conjures images of lonely people with a bit of personal feelings from the singer.
"I saw a photo in The Washington Post of all the people trying to leave Rwanda," Rutstein explains of the inspiration of this song, which came from this photograph of hungry and unfortunate souls. "I looked at the photo as an extension of my family."
The album's best song is the gently flowing "Today Is Better," which is a "very surrealistic song written in several scenarios." These scenarios range from a child riding a pony, to a pink ballerina, to a missing girl. This song, like the rest of the album, takes the listener deep into the world of folk, sweet acoustic stylings, honed and perfected over many years of practice and the fearless strength of love.
©Gazette file photo
GROOVIN' WITH A SIX STRING. Sonia Rutstein of Disappear Fear prepares for the band's show tonight at The Grad Club.