Lorna Bracewell is refreshingly difficult to define. She's an acoustic-guitar-wielding singer/songwriter who appreciates Ani DiFranco and The Rolling Stones — and isn't afraid to let both influences spice her music.
The St. Petersburg resident has shared stages with The Pretenders, Heart, Chris Isaak and even Christian music star Amy Grant. Bracewell is also an open lesbian who regularly performs the hymn "Amazing Grace" with all the passion and verve of a seasoned gospel singer.
Raised on religion, the 23-year-old has spent most of her career — which already totals five albums of original material — using music to reconcile a Bible-based upbringing with progressive social views. "I have some God-baggage I'm working through," Bracewell says with a laugh during a recent visit to the Creative Loafing offices.
By sorting out her "baggage" in song, Bracewell is bridging the gap between conservative Christians and lefty liberals with an international fan base (she's toured Europe several times) that includes members of both sects. "I don't self-identify as a Christian," Bracewell says. "But I don't see any conflict or tension between loving someone of the same sex and believing in [Jesus Christ]. It's funny how homosexuality has taken on such a big role [in defining Christianity]."
On the folk-rock title track to her new album Flowers on the Chain, inspired by a Karl Marx essay, Bracewell plays the role of adviser, cautioning her sister against jumping into marriage, questioning a brother's blind religious faith, and then in the third verse calling on the community at large to address "a fire in our pretty city on the hill."
Yes, Bracewell is an artist/activist. She made headlines nationwide last month when she went to City Hall in Largo to protest the firing of city manager Steve Stanton for undergoing a sex change. A picture of Bracewell holding a pink sign that reads "Don't Discriminate" ran in Newsweek, People and other publications.
"Being there to voice my opinion meant a lot to me," said Bracewell, a graduate of Largo High School whose brother works for the city. In fact, she had been to City Hall before, several years back, to sing "Amazing Grace" at a prayer breakfast for former Largo Mayor Bob Jackson. "I bet if he knew I was a lesbian," Bracewell says, "he wouldn't have had me sing 'Amazing Grace.'"
Latest release: Flowers on the Chain
Key track: "Flowers on the Chain"
More info: lornabracewell.com
Upcoming gigs: May 18 at Friday Extra Concert Series, Lowry Park Zoo Bandshell, Tampa.
Music Issue 2007: Chicks Rock
Tampa Bay's top 10 women musicians plus 100 must-have CDs by women artists