Women rockers get ready to shine for Legendary Album Series: Janis Joplin's Pearl | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Women rockers get ready to shine for Legendary Album Series: Janis Joplin's Pearl

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Jill Simmons on the cover of "Pearl"
  • Jill Simmons on the cover of "Pearl"
Blues, rock, reggae, and soul heavy-hitters like Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, The Band, Guns N Roses, Neil Young, Grateful Dead, Little Feat, and more men have all had their revival on Rex Theater’s stage, thanks to Ben Penigar’s Legendary Album Series. Now, it's time for a female artist to take the spotlight, when the event honors Janis Joplin’s Pearl on Sat., Aug. 3.

For each show in the series, a local musician functions as a bandleader and is tasked with putting together a group of local musicians, from different bands that may not have worked together before, to perform an iconic album in its entirety.

“For this particular event in the series, I reached out to Jill Simmons, an extremely talented vocalist to put together an all-female, or at least heavily female, lineup to perform Janis Joplin's Pearl," says Penigar.

Simmons, who is a vocalist in four-piece Pittsburgh cover band theCAUSE, jumped at the opportunity.

“I think [Penigar] looks for albums that people listen to in their entirety,” she says. “Albums that made a huge difference in someone’s life. That ‘desert island’ kind of album. I think Pearl fits the bill.”

After taking a deep dive into the record, Simmons didn’t feel as though she could sing a whole night of Joplin alone, so she enlisted Addi Twigg (The Telephone Line), Ali McTavish (a former theCAUSE vocalist), and Andrea Pearl, “a natural fit for vocals and percussion,” says Simmons. “Keeping on the theme of women musicians, I called two amazing female guitarists, Patti Spadaro and Lindsay Dragan, to join us.”

Rounding out the band is the rhythm section for theCAUSE, Mike South and David Tauberg, and keyboardists John Burgh (Gathering Field), and Steve Binsberger (Bill Toms and Hard Rain).

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“I’ve actually worked with all of these musicians, other than Dragan, who came highly recommended by [Twigg],” says Simmons. “They are all pros, so I was confident that everyone would do their homework and come prepared. We all came to realize that the songs are super complicated, with intricate arrangements that needed special attention. We’ve been rehearsing since April and feel great about the show we’re putting together.”

Pearl was Joplin’s second solo record after leaving psychedelic '60s rock band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, in which she was the lead singer. Simmons said to expect the album's big hits like “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Piece of My Heart” but to also prepare for a few deeper Joplin tracks.

“I’m excited to hear a powerhouse singer like [Twigg] put her own twist on Janis,” she says, “and a singer like [McTavish], who just exudes the raw, sensual energy that Janis brings, blow folks away. We have some great backup vocals and the show will be a whole lot of fun. We are doing a Big Brother and the Holding Company song, and a few ballads that I think most Janis fans aren’t deeply familiar with.”

Besides giving classic albums a chance to be heard live in modern-day, and allowing local artists to flex their music abilities, each of Legendary Album Series shows also serves as a benefit concert for a local non-profit or charity. For Pearl, proceeds will go to Girls Rock! Pittsburgh.

“A lot of people have commented about what it’s like working with all women,” says Simmons. “They think it can be challenging. I find it’s just exactly the opposite. I love working with talented, kind, hard-working, and professional female musicians. I’m very grateful that [Penigar] chose to highlight a legendary female artist as part of the Legendary Album Series. Rock ‘n’ roll is often a boys' club, but we women (and men) are going to kick ass on Saturday and for years to come.”

LAS: Janis Joplin's Pearl. Sat., Aug. 3. 8-11 p.m. The Rex Theater, 1602 E Carson St., South Side. ticketfly.com

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