internally the way the sounds come back through recording technologies. Feedback is not so much a reflection as a harmonic disillusion, a rending of our imagined wholeness. Ray, unlike most other butches, spends much of her time working out the mechanics of her voice, its reproduction and circulation. When not standing and delivering she practices the studio croon, the intimate delivery that became possible with the advent of miked recording on radio. In a youtube video, a relatively dolled-up Amy Ray strums directly into the camera, into the microphone, crooning to an imagined audience one swooning femme at a time. It’s a more anxious performance than the one on Wouldn’t It Be Kinder and I’m not sure it suits.
There’s another youtube video of just such an early version of “Stand and Deliver,” lovingly recorded by a fan. It works. Listening, I find myself holding my breath, sort of the way you do at the ballpark when the underprepared kid gets up to sing the national anthem—a notoriously difficult and unlovely vocal obstacle course – and you wonder if they can hit the highs and lows. The same feeling comes over me in this solo acoustic version. The vocal range and delicacy necessary to belt out the prayer, to cast the spell, to produce the butch voice, even more than to seduce the femme (who’s got her own thing going, and I’ll let it alone), makes me wonder, is she gonna make it to the end of this note, to the end of the song?
In the video and on the recording Ray shifts at the end of the song to falsetto, the quintessential male pop voice. I don’t think I any other female singer has ever used falsetto, and there’s a reason: Amy Ray is the butch’s throat, not Patti Smith’s wonderful but still ventriloquized gender masquerade in “Gloria.” No, Amy Ray don’t sound like a man. Close your eyes; there’s no double take/ double listening. Amy Ray is the butch throat. And in “Stand and Deliver” her butchness is cast in relation to doing right, to making whole another woman. It’s not ventriloquism, but something more contrapuntal. Not univocal; it’s anarchy.
As anarchic as it may be, the butch voice springs from one unifying throat or position:
She’s got to be with me always
To make sense of the skin I’m in