By Christopher Treacy
I visited with old friends in Boston this past weekend. It felt a bit like returning to the scene of the crime. What crime might that be? Maybe crimes – plural – is more appropriate. Too many to name here. I lived there for nearly 20 years. What was most striking about the visit was how much the city had changed, which was also reflected in how much my friends and I have changed. But the friendship at the root remains constant. Unfazed.
Like a city that has undergone massive change to accommodate demand and new ideas, Country, as a genre, has also become ‘built up.’ Some of these changes are great, while others seem disappointing and cheap. As we widen our perceptions to become more inclusive, we should remember to celebrate that which floats to the top, the things that strike us as most genuine in spirit. CMA Fest, which just wrapped up, let its name be affiliated with the first-ever queer country showcase last Thursday. This is a big deal. Check out our coverage of the event. Whether you like the direction(s) the genre is taking our not, there’s no denying our progress. You can definitely hear it in the selections for this week’s Roundup as well. Perhaps ‘Country’ is a frame of mind more than anything else.
Song of The Week: Amy Martin – “Antebellum Town”
Strummy and strident, “Antebellum Town” is more than a mere protest song. It’s a fed-up-and-moving-on song… the protest phase is over. Martin serves up frustration, anger, and abandon in her first single to advance her forthcoming album, but she’s using those emotions as fuel toward something better. The squeal of a harmonica signals movement… she’s on her way. We were able to ask her a few questions about this song and its earthy, vintage-country vibe, so look for our interview later this week.
Joy Clark – “Good Thing”
Gorgeously melodic and rife with comforting tones, Clark’s latest is a soothing balm. The track is built from a hammer-on guitar riff that effortlessly loans itself to a gentle, inviting rhythm. “‘Cuz you know we’ve got a good thing, and a good thing’s not so easy to find,” Clark croons through the chorus, singing of that durable, unconditional love and trust that lifelong partnerships are made of.
Meg Toohey – “All I Know”
Toohey sets up a sinewy electro-organic groove here with layered acoustic strumming over a prominent, pulsing synth, and it’s absolutely fantastic. Her delicate, whisper-sung vocal implies great intimacy as she observes a former lover in a new relationship, which serves as a jumping off point for a series of memories. In the end, she underscores “…the beauty in just letting go” and is reminded that tangibility is relative. Impressionistic in its imagery, the song is both open-ended and melancholy, but the electronic aspects of the arrangement create the sort of forward momentum that makes you want to listen over and over. Add in the bits of saxophone peppered through the track and it becomes timeless.
Jerrika Mighelle – “My Greatness”
Mighelle’s new single examines the discovery that we are more than our work—something so many of us lose sight of as we age and get further embedded in careers that may or may not fulfill us (or show off our truest talents). But maybe the more valuable things we have to offer the world are quantified in less obvious ways than how we tend to think of “work.” Maybe our greatness is measured in our generosity of spirit. Rife with alternating tones of frustration, mystery, and joyful discovery, this jangley track reveals something new with each listen. “Maybe my greatness has to do with the energy I share with everyone I encounter,” Mighelle explained to us. “My Greatness” explores this epiphany I had last summer, that despite how hard society fought to strip me from being able to love who it is natural for me to love, I have come through on the other side full of love. As my song says, “Love, I’m swimming in it”. Despite the adversity I survived growing up in the 80s and 90s as a Mormon kid, despite love trying to be taken from me, I now know what my greatness is. It is love.”
LJ Tyson – “Home on a Rainbow”
Set in Saskatchewan, Canada, where Tyson is based, he sings of a little boy who has, “…more to hide than anyone.” Metaphorically offering his hand, Tyson’s reedy pipes offer reassurance in this folk-pop gem: the boy has a safe place to go. Simple, but sturdy.
The Kentucky Gentlemen – “Love Language”
As is the pattern with the KGs, it’s a little bit country, a little bit R&B. The twin duo’s knack for blending the two is what stands out, and “Love Language” is no exception. This time around, the song is about romantic discovery, learning new things, and wanting to please a partner by having an open mind. There’s something idealistic about the sort of lover the KG’s portray here, set against an infectious soft-pop groove, and maybe that guy hardly exists in reality, but that’s cool… there’s always been a “dream lover” fantasy recurring in pop music.
Ella Ruby – “Last Year”
Images of lovers entwined in various positions guide us through a stormy romance in the latest from Ella Ruby. Haunted by an ex in her dreams, by the end she confesses she doesn’t want to fall asleep and laments all the wasted time and energy spent trying to forget how she felt in the throes of the relationship. Especially when combined with the aftermath, the intimacy described here is powerful and palpable. The song’s percussive backbone provides musical friction that underscores the narrative. It may be dark, but you’ll find yourself going back for more.
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.
Got new music? Submit it to CQ.