By Cher Guevara, Contributing Writer
Fast rising queer country star Paisley Fields has assembled a talented herd of backing musicians for their sophomore album Electric Park Ballroom (Don Giovanni Records). Coming two years after their debut Glitter & Sawdust, this album shows an artist growing by leaps and bounds, with plenty of high heel stomping honky-tonk grit and a few lonely ballads along the way.
Opening with the lead single, “Ride Me Cowboy,” the album gets off to a kicking start with this fun flirting bar tune of looking for love in all the right places. Drummer Matt Doctor taps out a dancing beat as Paisley and the gang sings loud and proud “Show me what you got going on under that hood / Ride me cowboy, ’til the cows come home.” It’s a tongue-in-cheek bawdy single, and in a just world it would already be in regular rotation on radio stations across the country.
Continuing with the up-tempo rhythm, “Other Boys” is a joyful celebration of being a country queen. Paisley sings about taking pleasure in the domestic side of life, saying that while other boys may be able to hide their feminine side, they were not – and there’s no shame in that. Musically, the track plays the joy to the top, particularly with the jaunty banjo pickin’ of Willie Huston. Personally, as someone who defintely was not like the other boys, I’d like to thank Paisley and the crew for writing such a celebratory song about folks like us.
“Shuffling Fool” pushes the album in a stranger direction; with Paisley’s piano, the fiddling of Reilly Vegh, and what sounds like synthesized drums, it sounds like disco. I know, country disco? But what the hell. I always appreciate the gonzo side of things and this shows the flexibility of the band. While Paisley laments about their inability to dance due to being distracted by some jewel strutting in front of them, this track could definitely be spun in a dance club and might get more than few boots scootin’.
With a fine sense of pacing, next comes a slow sad song: “Ramblin’ Ranger”, a country tear-jerker in the tradition of George Jones and Hank Williams. Like the singers of old, Paisley laments about the one who got away, the one they loved, the one they thought would be forever. Paisley’s piano and the bluesy chords of guitarist Mya Byrne pull this one along, and it hits you right in the feels. Listening to this song nearly made me want to pour a glass of Wild Turkey 101 and think about those I’ve loved and lost.
And what would a country album be without song of bloody revenge? Paisley takes the low voice of a story teller in “Time’s Up, Brad”, rapidly telling the tale of an abusive prick named Brad who beats and abuses his lady Maggie and ends up getting poisoned by Maggie and her friends. It’s delivered in a low, omninus tone, building a gruesome scene where Brad’s body is abandoned and nobody tells the tale of what happened to the son of a bitch.
Then we’re back to the sunny side with “You & the Country”, featuring special guest Sam Gleaves, who sings a duet with Paisley as they talk happily about being together out in the middle of nowhere, just them and nature, nothing but sunshine and fields to make their little slice of heaven. They jokingly poke fun at those who have never been out that way, wondering what sad lives they must lead, not being able to find the simple joys. The band keeps the two bouncing through their duet, with an up-tempo beat that sounds almost like the bluegrass of the Osborne Brothers.
The next track also features a special guest, the legendary Patrick Haggerty of Lavender Country singing along with Paisley on “Stay Away from My Man”. It’s a high-tempo upbeat dancing number about jealousy and a bar fight brewing as some plastic spray tan prick tries to move in on their cowboy lover. This is another cut that should be a hot rising single tearing up the charts on country radio stations across the nation. Paisley, Patrick, and the gang have never made saloon jealousy sound so damn fun.
The album comes to a close with “Marigold”, another slow somber number with Paisley’s piano and Mya’s guitar shining through, carrying the tune. Steeped in metaphor, Paisley uses the often forgotten flower to speak of love and strength through even the toughest of times. It’s a beautiful and fitting end to this amazing record.
Paisley and the gang should be pleased as punch and pour themselves a round of the finest champagne their record label can afford. Electric Park Ballroom is a rarity, an album that is perfect from start to finish; they explore and show their chops through various music styles, from disco rhythms to honky-tonk dancers to the tear-jerkers. If you are a queer country fan, this album is essential listening. Hell, even if you’re not, this album is essential listening, if no other reason than for you to hear the incredible talent brewing in 2020.
Paisley, I don’t know if you’re already working on another album, but to take a line from an old country song, Electric Park Ballroom is gonna be a hard act to follow…