Country Queer

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CQ Roundup, June 29

By Christopher John Treacy

So much quality music, so little time. This week’s Roundup is an embarrassment of riches, from Arkansas-based McKain Lakey’s whimsical new video to the flesh-raising feel of the latest Feelings Parade track and the restrained rage at the root of Rainbow Girls’ “Compassion to the Nth Degree.” There’s a new Brandi Carlile clip premiering later today, and this week also marks the release of the first ever Lavender Country video (scroll down). As 2022’s Pride season begins moving into the rear view, we have so much to be thankful for. Let’s try harnessing that energy and storing it to combat any bumps down the road, especially given that the SCOTUS has lost its collective mind.


Song of the Week: McKain Lakey – “Queer AF”

McKain Lakey’s delightfully unapologetic, Pride-y new single is the most CQ thing we’ve heard in a while, so it’s a natural fit for Song of the Week. It’s also a testament to how far our communities have come: outside the realm of, say, Pansy Division, the idea of merging the terms ‘queer as fuck’ and ‘cute as fuck’ into a song chorus seemed… unlikely, until pretty recently. Which is part of what makes Lakey’s new video and single such a revelation. They’re pairing a vintage country musical aesthetic with an unmistakably queer message. The absurd humor and unabashed joy expressed through the video clip makes it all “next level,” while the electric guitar flourishes and pedal steel parts of the song could be direct lifts from an old Lynn Anderson album. And yet, this is brand new. We got to ask Lakey a few questions about their new song, so watch this space for a Q&A later in the week. Meanwhile, here’s “Queer AF” – it’s cute AF.

Chris Housman – “Nobody”

Housman’s latest seems to capture that stubborn state where you’re sure you’ve found your soul mate… only, the soul mate doesn’t agree. For anyone that’s been in this tough spot, there’s a bittersweet determination that takes over. A rom-com paradise scenario repeatedly plays out in your imagination: you make a run for the soul mate and THEY YIELD (confetti explodes everywhere), admitting that they’ve been denying their true feelings all along, and together you ride off into the sunset. Alas, my experience is that this is not what usually happens, but Housman’s new single recalls the best moments of that not-quite-requited emotional conundrum, replete with layered vocal harmonies and charmingly organic instrumentation in 3/4 time. In the end, it’s a breakup song, but Housman’s not going down willingly.


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

Rainbow Girls – “Compassion to the Nth Degree”

Seething beneath its seemingly sweet surface, “Compassion…” is pissed off. Or, maybe not quite. It’s a cunning portrait of restraint. According the the Bay Area trio, just off a string of dates with Ani DiFranco, the song is about using love as a tool to get past our differences, even when we’re gnashing our teeth to muster it up. The video really drives home the ironies in the song: filmed in their living room with all the furniture moved outside, Rainbow Girls take steady aim at a sugarcoated world they can’t really stomach, regurgitating cake and donuts along the way. The eggplant emoji piñata is a brilliant (toothy!) touch. The track itself features RG’s trademark harmonies and reverb-drenched guitar that give it haunting beauty, heightening the contrasts in the song’s inspiration and the dark humor in the video. The song’s been floating around for a few years as part of RG’s live repertoire, but this new studio version and accompanying video are part of the lead-up to a new full length album. Stay tuned for more.

EVVAN – “Craving”

EVVAN’s latest is a follow up to her Mother’s Day single, “Mama, You Taught Me,” which was a Song of the Week. “Craving” rocks significantly harder. Beginning with some light percussive touches, the track builds into a tribal groove before completely blowing up at the chorus and later, giving way to an electric guitar solo. En route, EVVAN tackles issues of gender identity and expression. “‘Craving’ came from a point of confusion and frustration over the gender binary,” the New York-based artist explained. “I want to tell those who don’t experience it themselves about the real life difficulties in understanding how the world isn’t as simplistic as man and woman. The spectrum is much more expansive and not only involves gender, but gender expression and sexuality.” There’s a new EP on the way.

The Feelings Parade – “Too Much”

Gender queer duo The Feelings Parade—singer-songwriters Scott Ferreter and Morgan Bolender—have released the the third single in the run-up to their new album, Let It Move You, due August 19, and it’s a revelation. Poignant with remarkable depth of feeling and emotional sincerity, “Too Much” packs a wallop into a folksy tune that also showcases Bolender’s vocal capabilities. The ‘reaction video’ style of the accompanying clip helps us know how to process the song… but we could’ve figured it out on our own.

“[It’s] a song that Morgan initially wrote from the perspective of being a woman and feeling unsafe in the world because of it,” Ferreter explained. “We thought of it from that perspective until our first time performing it live, when Morgan looked out and saw our dear friend who’s Black and non-binary, and realized all at once that this song applies to so much more than just women; it’s for everyone who’s less safe because of the body they’re inmore or less anyone who isn’t a white, straight-appearing, able-bodied, cisgendered man. We want this song to hold anyone who lives that reality, and to open the eyes of anyone who doesn’t.”

Cody Belew – “Rodeo”

“Rodeo” has been out for a little while now, but we’d be remiss not to include it here. Melancholy in spirit, underscored by a lush production, Belew’s in his finest form. The clever lyric, co-written with Autumn McEntire pairs a rollercoaster romance with the challenge of riding an untamed animal—a familiar image, he explained to CMT, since his dad had been a bull rider. Additionally, he pointed out, bull riding is performative, further seasoning the metaphor.

June Clivas & The Ditty Boys – “Howlin’ For You”

June Clivas’s vocal on “Howlin’ For You” is much closer to a yodel than a howl, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that. Outside of an animal howl at the start of the track, the takeaway is more metaphoric – a deep yearning for the familiarity of people and places from that past. Like something out of an old Western flick, “Howlin’ For You” gallops at an even pace with a percussive slap guiding the way and flourishes of banjo to underscore the sensation of having stepped back in time. This is the first single from a soon-to-be-released new album, and we can’t wait to hear the rest!

Lavender Country – “I Can’t Shake the Stranger Out of You”

Hot off the presses, Don Giovanni Records announced yesterday the first official Lavender Country video everrrr had gone live on YouTube and here it is! “I Can’t Shake the Stranger Out of You” is a track that originally appeared on the band’s historic, self-distributed 1973 release, which then got an update on Blackberry Rose, their long-awaited second album nearly 50 years later that almost never happened. Trixie Mattel covered it on her Barbara album. The video, directed by Matthew Amato, mixes performance footage of Patrick Haggerty and Co. with vintage photos and cool memorabilia, while the song itself is a reminder that sex and true intimacy are two distinctly different things.

Katy Guillen & The Drive – “Discoloration”

The follow up to “Set in Stone,” a former Song of the Week, “Discoloration” swoops and dives in some unexpected ways, making it stand out in the crowd. Guillen and Co. deliver another ace track with grungey guitar at the forefront, but the rhythmic twists are what’s most compelling, coupled with a narrative that seems to be about pulling yourself out of depression and surveying the damage in its wake. Another One Gained arrives in August.

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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