“National Freedom Christmas,” Al Riggs & the Junior Arsonists Choir
By Cher Guevara, Staff Writer
North Carolina queer country outlaw Al Riggs has certainly been busy in the three months since the release of their sonic bombshell Bile and Bone, releasing an experimental MIDI album (Rhode-like) and two singles in celebration of Trump getting voted out of the White House (“Songs of/for/from Georgia” and “Songs of/for/from Pennsylvania”). And it seems they have one more sonic trick up their sleeve before 2020 comes to a close, offering us a taste of their upcoming album with this new single.
“National Freedom Christmas (For Richard Swift)” is the A-Side and is a Riggs original. Backed by the Junior Arsonists Choir, the song has quickly become a signature for Riggs, with its haunting electric background of subtly rumbling noise and droning guitar and lonely barroom piano right up front. Al’s bluesy ballad vocals lead the pack as they sing about taking on the Salvation Army, a subject near and dear to any queer around the holidays. The song builds to a beautiful crescendo as Al and the Choir sing in a march-like rhythm, “We’re gonna burn down the Salvation Army”. Usually, you don’t think of revolutionary songs during the Christmas season, but holy shit, you can almost see the street pack rise between the chords Al and the Choir play.
The B-Side is “Everything is Cool”, a John Prine cover, and a fitting one since Prine was one of many legendary figures we’ve lost during the pandemic. The cover finds Al in a more conventional country groove with minimal electric noise and the acoustic guitar front and center. If “National Freedom Christmas” was the reminder that the struggle is still yet to be won, this cover is a reminder to take a breather, that everything is indeed alright. The last verse and chorus cuts the closest:
And I find it real surprising
For myself to hear me say
That everything is cool
Everything is cool
What better way to sing out the last days of this completely fucked-up year? We’ve all been through hell and back, seemingly hanging on by the skin of our teeth, and yet, here we are. It is surprising to hear that everything is cool, but maybe it’s enough hope to get us to face 2021.According to their Bandcamp site, this single is a taste of the upcoming album due Spring 2021 and what a taste it is! Al continues to be at the razor’s edge of contemporary queer country music and it sounds like they already have a killer album in the works for our eager ears.
The new single is available on Bandcamp