Country Queer

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CQ Roundup, July 20

Photo Credit: Michelle Bennett

By Christopher Treacy

Two Dead Horses, Three at Home, and a startling Mightmare… This week’s Roundup is yet another grab bag of sonic diversity that, even just a few years ago, would not be considered country music. And maybe some of it is, and maybe some isn’t. But music conforms to genre when we say it does, which is precisely how our understanding of language (and music, and genre-hybrids) shifts over time. Call it country. It’s definitely queer.


Song of the Week: Dead Horses – “Days Grow Longer”

“Days Grow Longer” moves along like a folksy road song with a sense of momentum that softens the tones of frustration running through its narrative. The second advance track from the forthcoming Dead Horses album, Brady Street, out 8/12, seems to recount the emotional turmoil of pandemic times and all that entails, but it does so in a way that makes it seem like the worst is over—on the surface, it’s a lighter feeling song. For many folks, the lengthening of days (and the slow transition into the warmest seasons) signifies a special brand of reassurance. The song piqued our curiosity enough to warrant a Q&A with songwriter Sarah Vos, which will post later this week. Stay tuned!

Mightmare – ‘Saturn Turns”

The debut single from Sarah Shook’s long-gestating solo project definitely isn’t a Disarmers track. But given the overall sound of Nightroamer, the most recent SS&TD album, (which was recorded just before lockdown put a halt on us all), it’s not that dramatically different. Which means that fans of what Shook’s been getting up to with The Disarmers should be able to find something tangible and familiar here despite the lack of rootsy instrumentation. Indeed, “Saturn Turns” is a sludgy affair built from marrying a beat-loop with some fuzzy guitar, but the repetitive nature of the track builds into something hypnotic that transcends its musical simplicity. Shook’s mesmerizing presence is amplified with a video clip that also makes much out of seemingly mundane, everyday ingredients—a ride in the car, pumping gas, getting ready to go out. As a result, we’re left feeling like we know her a bit better. Mightmare’s debut full length, Cruel Liars, is out 10/14 on Kill Rock Stars.


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

Shawn Williams – “Fireworks”

This standout track from Williams’s latest full length, Wallowin’ In The Night, is a beguiling blend of electric blues with elements of indie-folk, showing off her ability to make music that doesn’t sound quite like contemporaries from any of the surrounding genres. Sure, she musically references Neko Case and Lucinda Williams on “Fireworks,” but, with her band’s support, she takes those references and runs off in another direction. Eschewing polish for in-your-grill realness, the no-bullshit vocal takes throughout the new album are quite striking. And then there’s the irregular song structures…

Brooke Annibale – “Better By Now”

Is it “better” yet? The title track from Annibale’s new full length, just announced for September 30 on Nettwerk, expresses the frustration that comes from feeling stuck. “Another false start at the finish line,” she sings, underscoring the exhaustion that many of us are experiencing as we wait for circumstances to improve. The track offers no answers or false hopes, but rather just lays out the implied truth: things aren’t really better, despite our hopes and best intentions. The accompanying video clip is terrifically trippy with its kaleidoscopic effects while also leaning into a ‘groundhog day’ feeling of restlessness.

Three at Home – “Athena”

Strident and anthemic, “Athena” feels like a gentle call to arms. The Boston-area duo of Dann Russo and Mary Casiello use this acoustic track (that nonetheless brims with contagious energy) as a platform to remind us that we’re resilient and resourceful people at a time when many of us are, perhaps, feeling a bit depleted. The song references strong women from Greek mythology as a reminder that we all have unshakable power. Featuring a driving rhythm and pleasing harmonies, it’s both encouraging and effective.

Zoe Cummins & Gabe Lee – “Common Law”

This is a marriage made in honky-tonk heaven, despite Lee’s 2020 album being titled Honkey Tonk Hell. Fresh off her appearance at the groundbreaking CMA Fest “Country Proud” showcase, Cummins has just released this fun duet that celebrates all that is non-traditional in modern relationships. Cummins and Lee play the parts of mismatched partners who, nonetheless, compliment each other and make it work… their way. It’s both charming and country AF.

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 lives in Waitsfield, VT.

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