By Christopher Treacy
Howdy, Y’all! It’s CQ Roundup time again and we’ve got some mighty unusual gems this week, from Fog Holler’s queer bluegrass to Matthew Connor’s chamber folk to a soulful new ditty from Denitia… and more. Time is precious, so have at ’em!
Song of the Week: Dawn Riding – “9 Lives”
Life is full of close calls. Sometimes we only realize them for what they are once they’re in the rearview. Dawn Riding, the musical project of singer-songwriter Sarah Rose Janko, is readying the release of a new collection of songs this fall, You’re Still Here, an album born out of 2021’s hesitant emergence from the pandemic. “9 Lives” recounts a series of those close calls strewn throughout her past, seemingly all the result of relationships with dark men (Janko is bi/pan). Sung in a lilting voice that drifts through the humid, shuffling arrangement with weary honesty, the song projects an air of spaciousness. As if dyed to match, Janko time travels through her own memories, plucking out compelling images that bring them alive like stills from old film reels—haunting and effective. We’ve got a Q&A with her that’ll run tomorrow, but in the meanwhile, enjoy our new Song of the Week, “9 Lives.”
Denitia – “Need to Be Needed”
Denitia shows off some versatility here, taking more of a soul-pop musical approach that on her last few singles, and it works marvelously. “Need to Be Needed” simultaneously projects urgency and melancholy. “Does it show on my face? Cause I’m holdin’ everything/All stress, no grace…” she croons, illustrating a tough emotional spot.
Matthew Connor – “Don’t Wait Up”
It may take a couple minutes to feel acclimated in Connor’s new single, but it’s well worth hanging in: the Massachusetts-based artist has crafted an absolute stunner. Taking a chamber-folk approach to a story about what happens when loved ones go missing, he croons the tune entirely in falsetto, resulting in a chilling, gothic spin that’s deeply affecting.
Them Badgers – “Grace of Dodge”
“Live the life you want, start today and not tomorrow,” urges Them Badgers’ Kadan Spooner in this galloping, banjo-driven romp that moves by so quickly, you’ll need several listens for the message to sink in. Spooner wants us to know that we’re in charge of our own destinies. “Now I speak with the tongue of a man and not an angel,” they specify, eschewing spiritual theories in favor of the cold hard facts. Toward the song’s end, they wisely advise anyone that finds themselves stuck to, “Take stock of all the gifts and love that pushed your journey onward, find your help by giving it away,” bringing the focus onto karma. Delivered with the air of hard-won life experience, “Grace of Dodge” is a queer philosophical anthem for those that dismiss spirituality’s intangible nature.
Fog Holler – “The Found Family Waltz”
Bay area foursome Fog Holler brings bluegrass into the 21st Century with a tune about finding our chosen families—a facet of queer identity for many, not to mention the beginning of true healing for folks whose families did not react well to their coming out. We love being able to include neo-traditional sounds in our coverage, and “The Found Family Waltz” is a charming display of organic string-band chemistry. From a statement sent to us about the track: “One of the band’s goals while writing [the album] Fog Holler was to write a song that conjures the sense of understated tragedy so often found in bluegrass. They believe they achieved this with ‘The Found Family Waltz.’ With lyrics by Fog Holler’s bassist, Noa, ‘The Found Family Waltz’ is a power waltz inspired by Noa’s experiences coming out, but is ultimately about coming into one’s own.”
Gemma Laurence – “Watchdog”
Laurence puts the natural breaks and cracks in her voice to great use on this new single leading up to the release of her album Lavender, out 11/4. A tale of uneasy transition in love told through a metaphor about winter’s increasing intensity, she sings “I think I’d like to learn to trust you a little more, but my watchdog heart is sleeping by the back door with one eye open waiting for you to go with the next snow.” All it takes is a few failed romances (or worse) for us to end up on high alert. Undoing that or ‘silencing the alarms’ can be the stuff of years on a therapists couch. Or, maybe just maybe, finding the right lover.
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 a great new song? Submit it to CQ!