by Cindy M. Emch
October is that time of year when music nerds and lovers look to country music for murder ballads and killing songs to keep the spooky Southern Gothic tunes with their minor chords and their cautionary tales rolling on turntables, smartphones, and internet playlists all over the land.
We here at Country Queer are no different, in fact I’ve curated an entire two part series of murder ballads over at my moonlight job as a GimmeCountry DJ. However there is a wonderful oevre of haunting tunes that often gets overlooked this time of year – and that is the songs of the witches.
A common theme in queer culture – witches were often women and healers who turned to the earth and nature to help their communities. Of course they also threatened the patriarchy with their strength and knowledge – and do to this day.
To celebrate the awesome wonder and power of the witch – I’ve put together a little video list of my favorite queer witch, and queer witch adjacent country music videos with a little devilishness thrown in for good measure.
Dolly Parton – Mountain Angel
A country music icon – Dolly Parton sings like an angel on this tune about the devil’s temptation and the downfall of a good woman. A perfect cautionary tale for the witching season.
Karen & the Sorrows – Why Won’t You Come Back to Me
You want witchy? We’ll give you witchy. The video for ‘Why Won’t You Come Back to Me’ from the new album ‘Guaranteed Broken Heart’ is full of rituals, urban-gothic beauty, and dramatic moments of pure feminist power. The Queen of Brooklyn’s Queer Country scene has made a coven that I’m am all about joining all year long.
Sarah Shook & the Devil – Outlaw
This haunting tune from kick-ass queer country singer Sarah Shook will have you bewitched in no time. From her album Seven released with her first band – Sarah Shook and the Devil.
Lindi Ortega – Murder of Crows
kd lang collaborator and legend of the Toronto indie scene – Lindi Ortega is easily earning her place on the list of music that Country Queers around the world adore. Ortega’s addicting vocals stir together a mix of Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Johnny Cash that perfectly suit her Canadian / Irish / Mexican identity. Here she brings a gorgeously creepy rural-gothic vibe to the supremely witchy video for ‘Murder of Crows.’
Delta Rae – Bottom of the River
From growing up with a mom entrenched in the fight for gay rights down in Marietta, Georgia to their own Marriage Equality anthem “Chain of Love (A Song For Marriage Equality)” – Delta Rae is longstanding ally to the queer community. They also are pretty adept at making one of the most feminist witchy videos that I’ve seen in a very long time. If you haven’t seen it before – get ready for some swampy scares in this video for their tune ‘Bottom of the River.”
The Stubborn Lovers – Devil Take My Heart
Queer americana allies The Stubborn Lovers have woo’d us right across the crossroads in this darkly romantic tune ‘Devil Take My Heart.’ I’ve included a live performance here – and while our featured tune is the first track – I encourage you to listen to the whole show and fall in love with this Pacific Northwest treasure.
Secret Emchy Society – Delia
And lastly – a tune from my band. As a queer country musician who has released more than a few murder ballads in my time – I had to include my own little cover of Cash’s classic Delia, sung out in the Canadian woods, surrounded by witchy weirdos, wizard tree carvings, and mushroom sculptures everywhere.
Got more spooky songs to suggest? Leave a comment here with your suggestions and maybe we’ll write up a part two!