The feminine mystique
There are some people who are so possessed of a love for life--and for love--that they are virtually forces of nature, blowing through situations and scenarios like some emotional Tasmanian devil. No matter how much these folks vex you--or break your heart--somehow you can't hate them, so sincerely do they bounce off the walls.

That Jo Carol Pierce is such a person is apparent from the opening line of her musical theater piece Bad Girls Upset by the Truth: "I need to send this song out to you guys out in the world who haven't had the courtesy to fall in love with the bad girls yet, 'cause y'all really bother me, although not as much as the ones who do." You can't win with these people, and you shouldn't even try--just sit back and enjoy the show, in this case what Rolling Stone called "a witty song-and-monologue cycle" that suggests a "wigged-out Western version of Laurie Anderson's United States."

Bad Girls--which is in album form from New Orleans' Monkey Hill Records--traces Pierce's development from tender Lubbock girlhood ("you're a bitch if you don't, and a whore if you do") through marriage (in real life to Jimmie Dale Gilmore) and womanhood in Austin. Along the way, she examines loss, lust, love, and her perpetual weakness for a kind of guy she calls "Secret Dan," the archetypal bad boy who's "got what all the girls need...that low visibility and high rate of speed...trying to keep his future a secret from his past."

Along the way, Pierce discovers that the reason she can't "pass up a single Secret Dan is that each one of them is just another side of Jesus," including Jesus in a leather jacket, bullriding Jesus, and "the kinda thuggy Jesus with the hooded eyes like Robert Mitchum." She lies in the middle of the road when she's thinking, follows UFOs, wonders about the relationship between God and woman, and witnesses the funniest retelling of the Nativity that ever featured an HEB full of escaped livestock.

It's not all yuks, though, for Bad Girls has some truly moving songs--"Scratch Upon Her Windowpane," "Loose Diamond"--and an actual lesson lurking there behind all the odd hilarity. A truly original and connective work presented with a group of musicians that includes David Halley reprising his role as Joey (Jo Carol's hapless high school boyfriend), this bit of musical theater is perfect for the upstairs room at the White Elephant, a small, intimate space that attracts careful listeners.

--Matt Weitz

Jo Carol Pierce brings Bad Girls Upset by the Truth to the White Elephant in Fort Worth on Thursday, January 30.


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