Country Queer

Lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in country and Americana.

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CQ Roundup, September 21

By Christopher Treacy

Photo Credit: Jillian Clark

Welcome to Fall. Ready or not. September is a sharp turn here in this area of Vermont with some days down into the 50s already.

Aside from the descent into all things pumpkin spice, September is also National Recovery Month, an ongoing tradition since 1989. Be sure to check out our recovery-focused interview with Ty Herndon, which we did over the summer but just went up on the site yesterday. Additionally, Sarah Shook’s solo project, Mightmare, was born out of sobriety, and their new single, “Enemy” is our Song of the Week. Meanwhile, Canada’s Joey O’Neil released a video filmed by her pup, Zach Day burned the evidence, the bouncing suspension on Rowlyn Cole’s truck got a workout, and Amy Martin felt romantic passion as she twirled around a barroom dance floor. Finally, multi-instrumentalist Alex Sturbaum and fiddler River Scheuerell served up the old time vibes with a square dancing favorite in this week’s grab bag of queer talent. Don’t delay!


Song of the Week: Mightmare – “Enemy”

This Appalachian-toned battle cry is the latest from Sarah Shook’s solo project, Mightmare, and of the three singles released from the forthcoming Cruel Liars album (Kill Rock Stars, October 14), it’s the one that best lends itself to the CQ aesthetic. “Were we just killin time?,” Shook muses in what’s obviously a meditation on a breakup. There are some hard and fast details (“I threw your shit out in the yard…”), but the second verse is less tangible, inspired by a dream. The air of mystery is compelling, but Shook elaborated some in a statement that accompanied the video premiere last week.


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

“When I started working on ‘Enemy’ I was thinking about how people can be so vindictive during breakups and how pointless it is,” they said. “It got me wondering if a breakup somehow triggers something deeper in us psychologically, like a fundamental fear of being forgotten or something.  And by the time I finished it I was missing all my childhood friends and all the people I’ve lost along the way.”

Joey O’Neil – “Maybe Tomorrow”

O’Neil delivers something disarmingly organic here and it’s a refreshing surprise—a pared-down cover of the theme song from a beloved Canadian TV series, “The Littlest Hobo.” The show revolved around the adventures of an ‘ownerless dog,’ and O’Neil has put together a fitting video clip for her version. The song first appeared on her 2020 album, Ever Ahead, but the clip, which was filmed from her dog Oblio’s perspective, is brand new. Charming but challenging in unforeseen ways, she writes, ““I made my dog a make-shift GoPro harness out of her anxiety vest. The trouble was, while filming in a place as beautiful as Tombstone Territorial Park, her attention was not on me. I was constantly diving in front of her to pose casually and lip-sync in the lichen… She would quickly turn away, preferring to look at the majestic mountains.” O’Neil and Oblio have been on a ‘Dog Park Tour’ of Canada this summer.

Rowlyn Cole – “Country Boy Thuggin”

We can’t tell ya too much about Rowlyn Cole… except that he’s a Texas-based, ex-marine, blue collar oil field worker. And he identifies as queer, somehow. All good, “Country Boy Thuggin” hangs out at that increasingly popular corner of country and hip-hop with plenty of sexy innuendo. This infectious, grinding quickie comes across with an authoritative, commanding voice and the sort of refrain that gets lodged in, um… your head. What’s not to dig?

Zach Day – “It Kills Me”

A Kentucky native now based in Nashville, Day’s acoustic sets have made him a familiar figure in the indie-queer community where he’s established as both a skilled songwriter and an impressive vocalist that can take down big pop songs all alone with his guitar. This track, his first fully-produced solo single, is a bit different. Day definitely sings the shit out of the song, an ode to one of those lovers that we probably shouldn’t have messed with. Or maybe it’s about an affair that only happened in the narrator’s mind, which gives it a sinister ‘Glenn Close boils the bunny’ feel. Either way, he’s defiant and desperate… and it’s contagious, set against a smooth AF Motown stomp. You’ll be shouting along with the chorus, rooting for him all the way. And the video clip? A most satisfying revenge. Bye Bish.

Alex Sturbaum feat. River Scheuerell – “Sally Goodin”

Sturbaum is a traditional musician based in Olympia, WA and Slash is their latest release—an album of duets with friends and favorites wherein Sturbaum plays rhythm guitar and the guests (mostly) play fiddle. Slash clocks in at a generous ninety-minutes-plus and many of the songs are done in triptych style as medleys that seamlessly weave into one another. It’s an impressive feat to say the least. Tall Poppy String Band’s Cameron DeWhitt plays on one of the tracks, but we thought this one, with fellow Pacific Northwest string maven River Scheuerell, was the most CQ-appropriate of the album’s 21 options. A traditional song that dates back to (at least) the American Civil War, “Sally Goodin” is a square-dancing staple for a fiddlers repertoire, but it’s also become popular for a banjo-and-mandolin combo. With Sturbaum’s rhythm guitar driving the tune along, Scheuerell really kicks up some dust. We do love a good instrumental tune once in a while.

Amy Martin – “Dance With You”

Martin’s monthly singles continue to be of astonishing quality, and this ballad (out at the beginning of the month – we’re late, and we’re sorry!) is no exception. Going with less twang and more soul this time out, Martin’s powerhouse vocal delivery will have all the hairs standing on end with this unabashed queer love song that comes in the form of a piano ballad. It’s a tale of love in the moment, but the romantic overtones make it seem like it could also be a love for the ages. Mrs. Right or Mrs. Right now? It hardly matters.

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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