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Queer, talented, and on their own: a handful of unsigned out artists whose CDs are making waves with adventurous audiences.

Michelle Shocked predicted the future 13 years ago when she sang "If you want the best jam / You gotta make your own" before dumping her record label. Even as major labels have merged and cannibalized their competition, savvy music fans have noticed independent labels and artists proliferating. New and established acts are using digital delivery to connect directly with consumers, and homegrown resources like Danny Jenkins's OutVoice.net are helping fans help each other to find the best independent out artists. Here are six musicians whose worlds are worth seeking out:

Automatic Fun, The Bobbleheads; Distance to Empty, John Ashfield: Lead Bobblehead and solo artist John Ashfield sings and plays like a man in love. And not just any love--he's grooving to the sweet joy of the perfect pop song from 1970. But don't confuse catchy with kitschy; his lyrics will blindside you with naked honesty. Ashfield's second solo CD (coming out in June) is darker, but in his world it's always a sunshiny day.

www.BobCentry.com, Bob Gentry: Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Bob Gentry has an eat" for hooks and a voice that easily moves from velvet whisper to gravelly shout. His songs follow a similar path. "Goldie Hawn," a bouncy sing-along about holding on to fading youth, draws you in, but the complex emotions of "But I Do" and "Somebody New" resonate with repeated listening.

Girl Like Me ..., K.J. Denhert: The cover of K.J. Denhert's latest release comes with a warning label: "Urban Folk & Jazz Artist." If only every coffeehouse and small club had Denhert on tap. Her laid-back grooves and smooth vocal style invite you to sit back, close your eyes, tap your foot, and drink in the coolness.

Ballad, D.C. Anderson: D.C. Anderson gives the fey and stuffy cabaret genre a good kick in the pants. Several of these 11 original songs sound like unearthed classics from the Great American Songbook ("I Don't Know My Way Around a Dream"). Anderson can emote with the best but does so sparingly, balancing the drama with Tom Lehrer--style humor.

Coming Together, PEP: The debut release from female vocalist PEP offers guitar-driven tunes, tasty organ fills, and a deliver, punctuated by a raw, sexy growl. She stakes her claim to traditional rock topics as the women in her songs strut and preen, beg a partner for forgiveness, or try to remember who it is they're waking up next to.

Black.out, Tori Fixx: Minneapolis-based hip-hop artist Tori Fixx likes to think big, and he's got the goods to back up his ambition. Black.out is the first disc in a trilogy prepped for release. The 16 tracks here offer funky jams, steamy beats, sexy humor, and sly nods to styles ranging from Harlem jazz to do-it-yourself Prince.

Davis is the editor of UCLAlumni magazine.
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Title Annotation:music
Author:Davis, Mark
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 11, 2004
Words:468
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