She started out as a duo act with her late husband Johnny Donald, a more or less straight zydeco thing with elements of rock and country and funk. Now in the middle of her solo career, Valerie Sassyfras has chosen to reinvent herself as a one-woman show, working through the loss by hauling a laptop on stage and singing about nothing more or less profound than good old sex. And it’s empowered her in the strangest way, making her a local hero in the LGBTQ and wider neo-hipster community.
Sassyfras is the kind of outsider camp that defies all critical theory, sort of like all three Del Rubio triplets crammed into one (it’s no coincidence that Tim and Eric somewhatstar David Liebe Hart appears in one of her videos), but she’s no joke—when she stands onstage at Tip’s with her accordion, or dances (but does not strip) behind her ever-present burlesque scrim, or does her otherworldly dance moves while performing at the world’s last Piccadilly Cafeteria out on Jefferson Highway, she’s affirming her right to shine. And her debut album reflects that perfectly, from the oddly matriarchal come-on of “Babysitter” to the Princely funk of “Wicked Love” and the straight glam of “Rollercoaster.” Only attitude can explain how her saucy croak could replace Donna Summer’s three-octave mezzo-soprano on “Hot Stuff.” And the closing cover of her husband’s “Somethin’s Brewin’” is un-ironically touching, even when taken out of context.