Welcome to the “House of Joy”
“Don’t you know that the South will rise again?!Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes declares with unyielding conviction on “Muscle Shoals”, the tribute to the singer/songwriter’s Bible Belt hometown.  Through the years, the same can be said of Mapes himself.  Here’s a performer who has fought to make his mark as a truly self-styled, one-of-a-kind artist… with a fair share of both struggle and critical acclaim along the way.  Voted “OUTmusician of the Year 2003”, Mapes has undergone many changes in his persona through his years of performing.  As one-name wonder “Yolanda”, Mapes used to do “high” drag (Think evening gowns, wigs, high heels, and makeup..) before switching to a more androgynous, gender-fucking image (think beard, combat boots, and makeup…), and then seemingly making peace with his Y chromosome.  But what’s remained constant is Roger Mapes’ strong, powerhouse voice.  This singer knows how to belt!  “House of Joy”, Mapes’ new CD, features ten full-blooded original songs, plus an impressive reworking of Bobbie Gentry’s 1967 hit “Ode to Billy Joe”.  Robert Urban (“OUTmusician of the Year 2006”, and– to restate the obvious– an  acclaimed performer in his own right) produced and arranged the CD, as well as contributing background vocals, guitar, and a variety of other instruments.  The bluesy, raw, Southern-style rock on “House of Joy” is a great match for Mapes’ take-no-prisoners voice, and the artist’s lyrics pay homage to his Southern roots while exploring provocative themes about gender and self-expression.  “I Wanna Know” features an unrelenting serpentine rhythm and superb guitar work courtesy of Mapes and Robert Urban.  The song breaks into an intense, high-energy climax that leaves the listener spent.  For “Muscle Shoals” we’re again treated to some superb guitar work as Mapes sings about Muscle Shoals, Alabama, “the hit recording capital of the world”. On “We are Angels”, Mapes adopts an ethereal, almost otherworldly vocals style–  well-suited to the song’s title and its lyrics.  “Freedom”, a song about Brandon Teena (the transgendered man who was murdered in 1993), doesn’t dwell on the tragic aspects of Brandon’s life; but rather, it’s a celebration of the late trans man’s decision to live life as he saw fit.  It’s a grand, triumphant highlight of the CD, as is the quietly beautiful “Control Queen”.  “The Greatest Love of My Life” is a truly sweet–as-molasses love song.  With the bonus track “Intimacy”, Mapes gives us a taste of his sound when he was known only as “Yolanda” with his band The Plastic Family. It’s, as you’ll hear, a very different musical style from the rest of the CD.        

More than just strong music, “House of Joy” emerges as a portrait of an singer/songwriter/performer who’s got a lot to say, and who’s not afraid to break “the rules” to say it.  For “Nice Girl”, a song where Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes gets to display a whole range of his vocal talents, the artist declares, “It doesn’t pay to be a nice girl, I’m telling you; It doesn’t pay to be a nice girl, so here’s what you do…”  It’s good advice for all of us, whether you’re a boy, a girl, or a boy who’s not afraid of putting on a little makeup.

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