By Christopher Treacy
Having a distinct creative voice is what it’s all about. The choices for this week’s CQ Roundup are all quite distinctive—perhaps unusually so. We’ve got a Madonna cover and a traditional tune, both of which definitely have their own spin. Nobody else in the queer sphere sounds quite like Paisley Fields, Zoe Boekbinder, and/or Mike Maimone. All three artists are idiosyncratic in their deliveries, which is one of the main elements that draws me into a musician’s work. The scrappy feel of newcomer Steph Cash’s single contrasts wonderfully with her velvety voice, also creating something unusual. You may not love all of it, but we’re pretty sure you’ll find something new to enjoy. Dig in!
Song of the Week: Bobby Blue – “Don’t Tell Me”
Sometimes an artist’s musical personality is most evident when we hear them cover a song we already know. We get to experience their creativity through their choices in altering the tone of the original, the instrumentation they use (or don’t use), and the changes they make in the vocal phrasing.
New York City’s Bobby Blue is a four-octave vocal powerhouse who has carved a career for himself mixing original material and covers that incorporate elements of his Latin-American heritage with queer, indie-folk textures; the results are quite unique. His new single, a reworking of Madonna’s “Don’t Tell Me” from 2000’s Music, really shows off his chops—so much so that we’re making it Song of the Week. Tune in tomorrow for a Q&A with Blue about his relationship to the song, which is based on a riff written by Joe Henry. Meanwhile, enjoy this new video, which just went live yesterday.
Steph Cash Band – “Bloodlines”
An engaging, twangy tale, perhaps told with some autobiographical twists, “Bloodlines” is a great showcase for Cash’s thick pipes. A gently garage-y heartland track with a memorable chorus and refrain, Cash and Co. are relative newcomers to the Austin scene; “Bloodlines” is their second single. We’re sure there’s plenty more good stuff to come.
Paisley Fields – “Plastic Rosary”
For the second advance track leading up to the release of his new Limp Wrist album, out 8/26 on Don Giovanni, Paisley Fields delves deeper into his religious upbringing. Throughout “Plastic Rosary,” he attempts to make sense of the religious tenets and symbolism forced on him as a child while a storm brews outside… metaphors abound. For those of us that still choose to believe, what do we keep and what do we toss? How shall we reconcile our faith with having been told the gates to heaven are closed to our kind? Will plastic rosary beads bail us out? Paisley doesn’t think so, but he’s also no longer sure it even matters.
Zoe Boekbinder – “I Am Yesterday”
How do you deal with being cast out of someone’s life? Sometimes things just snap. Unbeknownst to you, you’ve crossed a line. And then, just like that, you’re no longer welcome in that world. If you’ve even been excommunicated like this then you know: it’s the most frustrating kind of interpersonal drama. Part of what’s so transfixing about Boekbinder’s new track—a collaboration with Righteous Babe labelmates Gracie & Rachel—is the eerie calm with which they communicate the details. And yet, you can feel the hurt, sadness, disillusionment, and dismay, bubbling just beneath the song’s dreamy surface. The brilliant use of reflected imagery in the accompanying video clip reveals more possibilities in the storyline while, musically, Boekbinder weaves staccato-plucked tension with wistful vocals to create something impressive and powerful.
Tall Poppy String Band – “Cumberland Gap”
The final reveal in the run-up to the release of the TPSB self-titled debut this Friday is another old-timey jam with a live video performance from Wintergrass this past February. The song, recorded many times since the 1920s including a well known 1940s version by Woody Guthrie, refers to an Appalachian mountain pass, control of which was fought over between the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War.
Mike Maimone – “Stay”
Maimone may sound a bit like the love child of Tom Waits and Dr. John, but within the queer music making community, he’s singular. A piano man with his ivory-tickling fingers in multiple musical projects, “Stay” is a duet with JC Brooks, and Maimone (may-mow-knee) tells us, “It’s based on a true story where I packed all my shit into my Subaru and left my fiancé, getting a hotel room at the airport to figure out my next move. But before I could get to sleep, I missed our dog so much that I went back, unpacked everything, and we just moved on without really discussing what had just happened.” The song has a happier ending than the real-life romance did, but that’s part of what’s great about songs: the artist can engineer the ending.
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.