Country Queer

Lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in country and Americana.

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Shining Light Through a Dark Flight: Gauthier, Harris & Tasjan Headline Refugee Fundraiser, 12/14

By Christopher Treacy

Refugees often flee in darkness and danger.
They can use an assist.
Lanterns, meanwhile, provide light.

It’s a simple metaphor for a complicated problem. Dually based out of New York and Washington, the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) defines itself as being, ‘…on the front lines in protecting the rights and lives of women and children fleeing danger and crisis.’ Reproductive rights and freedom of sexual and/or gender identity play a significant role in refugee populations, making the WRC an extremely worthy benefactor of queer fundraising.

Enter The Lantern Tour.

A recurring series of annual live concert events staged to benefit the WRC that began in 2018, the 2022 Nashville edition of the Lantern Tour, to be held at City Winery on December 14, is definitely of special interest to fans of Country Queer. The show is nothing short of a queer tour de force: Aaron Lee Tasjan, Mary Gauthier, Becca Mancari, Jaimee Harris, Madeleine Kelson, and Lila Blue will bring the queer with a capital Q, while allies Ruby Amanfu and SistaStrings up the ante as unflinching allies with their unstoppable talent. And there’ll be special guests (though we must maintain the element of surprise).


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

CQ readers definitely do not want to miss this show, and they don’t have to: for those unable to attend in-person, livestream tickets are available through the Mandolin Box Office, and they’re mighty affordable at $15.

“As a person who identifies as queer, I want to do all I can to help those who are moving through the world with far less privilege than I,” Jaimee Harris told us, currently on the eve of releasing a new concept album, Boomerang Town, which wrestles with themes of small town identity and the desire to transcend the demons that keep some of us stuck. While refugees are often in imminent danger, it’s not a stretch to see the topical overlap. “I often address the experience of being an outsider, feeling unwanted, and searching for a place to belong in my songs,” she added.

“I am a huge supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, and the thought of being a queer refugee is simply terrifying,” Mary Gauthier told us with her signature frankness, cutting right to the heart of the matter.

The implications in both artists’ statements drive home a significant truth: especially given the political climate here in the United States, we may be worried about the rights we’ve fought for in this country, and quite justifiably so. But we are drenched in freedom compared with other populations. It’s an unsettling reality check, imagining how the lifestlyes that we take for granted would be impacted under the rule of a different political system. And there are hoards of people, women especially, struggling to liberate themselves from systems that attempt to regulate their choices. They need our help.  

Benefit concerts are many, and the idea that music can unite people may seem trite to some, but the reality is far from it. Songs change us. Sometimes very slowly. In initially imperceptible ways. The truth is that music impacts our belief systems and unifies people, both in the moment—in a concert venue, for instance—and over time, in our day-to-day lives, changing how we view the world around us. It’s the crux of Gauthier’s book, Saved By A Song.

“Music has the power to bring people together through creating empathy,” she surmised. “This is one the greatest powers on earth, it is a form of love that can transform a heart, and a life.”

Recent Milwaukee-to-Nashville transplants Monique and Chauntee Ross, a.k.a. SistaStrings, concur.

“I believe that anything that can combine art and advocacy is a wonderful thing,” Monique proclaimed in a recent exchange. “Music is power, and as an artist I believe it is my job to continue to try and manifest change in the ways I know how. That is definitely through music.”

“We are children of ministers, so outreach is something that we were raised doing,” Chauntee explained. “As we began to build our career as SistaStrings, it has remained an integral part of who we are and how/why we make music. We’ve seen the power of representation in music and how that’s opened doors for so many young people to find a home in the arts. We’ve seen a room full of folks from all kinds of backgrounds united to enjoy song. We’ve seen music change minds and hearts. This work may seem tedious at times but it’s something we believe in wholeheartedly.”

The roster of talented folks that believe in doing that work on behalf of The Lantern Tour may not be lengthy: the concert series is barely five years in running. But the quality of talent is staggering­­—from Dobro maestro Jerry Douglas and Americana legend Emmylou Harris to Shawn Colvin and the ever-cause-minded Jackson Browne, to queer country superstar Brandi Carlile and treasured songwriters like Patty Griffin, the Lantern Tour remains a top notch showcase of artists in an unusual, acoustic, in-the-round format. No two dates are alike.

“I am so happy to be a part of the legacy that this organization holds,” singer-songwriter Becca Mancari said. “It’s amazing to see the roster of incredible artists who have been a part of this important organization, and to see all of the good work that has been done to help marginalized women around the world.”

In Person Tickets for The Lantern Tour at Nashville’s City Winery, 12/14

Livestream Tickets for The Lantern Tour, Good for 48 Hours Post-Broadcast

Christopher Treacy has been writing about music and the music industry for 20 years. He’s contributed to The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Herald, Nashville Scene, and Berklee College of Music’s quarterly journal, as well as myriad LGBTQ+ outlets including the Edge Media Network, Between the Lines/Pride Source, Bay Windows and In Newsweekly. He’s the Managing Editor for CQ and lives in Waitsfield, VT.