“Company’s Comin’,” Duets LP From Queer Icon, Is a Welcoming Gesture
By Annie Parnell, Staff Writer
Company’s Comin’, Leslie Jordan’s new duets album of gospel hymns, offers both comfort and grace. Born of a quarantine ritual of singing with actor and musician Travis Howard to keep sane, the Emmy-winning actor (Will & Grace, American Horror Story) has teamed up up with a star-studded cast of performers — many of them queer country stars — to breathe new life into centuries-old classics and give voice to powerful new originals. What results is an album that speaks beautifully to our present moment, beckoning the isolated and the outcast to answer its call of communion.
Opening Company’s Comin’ is a jubilant rendition of “This Little Light of Mine,” featuring Americana angel Katie Pruitt. A joyful testament to living as your true self, it acts as an uplifting tone-setter for the rest of the album. When Pruitt sings “hiding under a bushel” and Jordan responds “oh no, honey,” the subtext is clear — on Company’s Comin’, there’s no hiding, only celebration.
Spoken interludes like this one, as well as recorded snatches of song demos and conversations between Jordan, his duet partners, and their backing band, create a cozy sense of family and spontaneity. It’s as if the masterfully-performed covers and originals are all part of one big impromptu front-porch jam session, featuring visitors ranging from Tanya Tucker to Eddie Vedder. Even the title suggests this, calling to mind family dinners and the anticipation of guests arriving at the door.
As Jordan notes, not all of his partners on the album are queer, but all of them “know what it feels like to not be accepted for who you are” — and all of them seem to feel right at home here. On “Where The Soul Never Dies,” for instance, he and Dolly Parton are joined by a rousing choir congregation of Dolly’s family members, and chat cozily over banjo licks about how this “mountain music” takes them back. Backing horns on “Farther Along,” provided by The “504” Horns in New Orleans, add an exultant layer to the track’s soulful guitar riffs and Jordan’s spoken confessions to singing partners Chris and Morgane Stapleton that “sometimes I do not feel worthy.”
The album’s songs of triumph and blessings are particularly resonant as performed here: by queer voices, who have historically been shut out of many worship communities. Jordan, who left the church as a teenager, describes the project’s creation as “recapturing the joy of what this music meant to me as a kid, but without all the baggage.” When he and Brandi Carlile sing “come and around me stand” in their cover of “Angel Band,” it’s impossible not to hum along. When he and TJ Osborne team up to perform “Sweet By & By,” the lyrical promise that “we shall meet on that beautiful shore” is poignant and almost defiant.
In a quarantined year where Semler topped the Christian charts with folksy queer testament Preacher’s Kid and Julien Baker has continued to wrestle with angels and identity on Little Oblivions, this radical sense of salvation and hope for reunion with faraway loved ones is especially prescient. But in contrast to those fine albums, on Company’s Comin’ we get to dwell in joy instead of suffering, and take solace in the prospect of coming together, rather than the pain of being apart.
“Company’s Comin'” is available now at https://platoon.lnk.to/AngelBand