Country Queer

Lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in country and Americana.

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CQ Roundup, September 7

By Christopher Treacy

(L: Evil, R: Melissa Carper by Aisha Golliher)

This week’s CQ Roundup spills over with soul, from the groove-laden undercurrent of Evil’s “Wrecked,” our Song of the Week, to the organ-and-banjo interplay in Amy Ray’s new “Joy Train,” it’s inescapable. We’ve got an Exclusive Song & Video Premiere from the incomparable Melissa Carper (excuse me for a sec while I excitedly jump up and down and do a dance around the room), who serves up some soul in the form of a mournful ode, while Brandi Carlile’s new version of “You and Me on the Rock” pulls back the production value to better expose the soul of the song at its core. New tunes from Brittany Ann Tranbaugh and Emily Elbert round out the set.
Soul food. Yum.


Song of the Week: Evil – “Wrecked”

Evil’s new EP, The Second Death, includes tracks that have been released during the course of the pandemic as well as some tunes we’re hearing for the first time. When we interviewed them back in Spring of last year, they spoke of a project that examined their relationship to God as a queer person of color, and we’re thinking The Second Death is the product of that examination. “Wrecked” hones in on destructive patterns, but not everything that’s destructive is necessarily negative… sometimes, things need destroying. The song seems like an outlier within the conceptual framework that Evil laid out for us in 2021 until you let it sink in… suddenly, after multiple listens and sitting with the imagery for a while, the spiritual connection begins taking shape. Meanwhile, the music tugs at us in unusual ways, taking some sonic references to country and using them to decorate around the undertow of an irregular (and infectious!) groove. Evil will return to CQ this week with a Q&A about “Wrecked,” which is sinewy enough to warrant being named our new Song of the Week.

Exclusive Song & Video Premiere: Melissa Carper – “Ain’t a Day Goes By”

We’re over the moon to have the Exclusive Premiere of a brand new song and video clip from Melissa Carper, which is also the first advance track from her forthcoming album, Ramblin’ Soul, due Nov. 18. It’s a heartbreaking song about grief and loss, but a gentle western swing and soulful tones of hope keep it above water. By not treating it as a ballad, Carper instead serves up something bittersweet and endearing with just the slightest element of whimsy. It’s a fitting tribute, as she explained in a statement about the tune.


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

“I wrote ‘Ain’t a Day Goes By’ for my dog Betty in 2014,” Carper told us. “This song is very emotional for me; it was difficult to go through my Dad’s death, then my Mom’s death only a year later, and really, in a sense, losing my younger brother to severe mental health issues that have changed his personality completely. Betty’s death crushed me because she had been through it all with me. The grief just started pouring out at that point. I wrote ‘Ain’t a Day…’ within a year of her death, but could not sing it without crying until recently, so I haven’t performed it much in my shows. Now, it gets its rightful debut on Ramblin’ Soul because it is a true soul song.”

Welcome back, Melissa Carper, oh how we’ve missed thee!

Emily Elbert – “Woven Together”

We absolutely adore the tones of solidarity coming through this, the title track of Elbert’s latest. Her dexterous guitar playing and compositional penchant for jazzy freedoms are on full display here in what comes across as a mantra… something we can all use. Let yourself get lost in its circular, hypnotic goodness.

Amy Ray – “Joy Train”

The second track (and album opener) off Amy Ray’s forthcoming What If It All Goes South? (Daemon, 9/16) is full of curious images, taking us on a trip through the past while touching on an issue that continues rearing its ugly head: white supremacy. For anyone that doesn’t know, Medgar Evers was an American civil rights activist and the NAACP’s first field secretary in Mississippi; he was assassinated by a member of the supremacist group White Citizen’s Council in 1963.

Ray has a knack for believably inhabiting characters that are likely outside of her own experiences and “Joy Train” is a great example, though her life in the mountains of Georgia puts her at a cultural intersection that’s surely rife with racial and ideological tensions. Vagaries in the narrative make it challenging to determine exactly whose perspective the song is written from, but that makes it all the more compelling. Musically, it’s an amalgam of outlaw country and Americana soul, banjo and organ leading the parade, with sweet, Indigo-reminiscent harmony vocals.

Brandi Carlile – “You & Me On the Rock” (In the Canyon Haze Version)

I’ll admit it: I’m a total scrooge about Deluxe Versions of albums that are still fairly new. Expanded versions of classic albums that reveal demos and outtakes are another story, but releasing a second take on something less than five years old seems… unnecessary.

That said, Brandi Carlile keeps making magic and managing the impossible this summer, creating one-of-a-kind shows with special guests from all over the queer sphere, luring the once-curmudgeonly Joni Mitchell back on stage, collaborating on Allison Russell’s triumphant re-record of “You’re Not Alone,” and now this: a reworking of her most recent single that’s better than the original. Joined here by wife Catherine on delicious harmony vocals, Carlile has stripped the song of its bright, folk-pop production and takes a more bare bones approach to the song, letting its sentiments of domestic stability and endurance shine even more brightly.

Carlile’s new, deluxe edition of In These Silent Days, entitled In The Canyon Haze, drops September 28 on Dave Cobb’s Elektra imprint, Low Country Sound. It features reimagined, Laurel Canyon-inspired versions of each song from the original album, plus a cover of Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” The new version of “You and Me on the Rock” is our first taste.

Brittany Ann Tranbaugh – “Almost Ready to be Friends”

Philly-based Brittany Ann Tranbaugh has released a new live EP, out last week, which includes fresh versions of her previous singles “Kiss You” and “Quarter Life Crisis Haircut,” but this week we’re highlighting “Almost Ready to Be Friends,” a song that Tranbaugh wrote in to let us know is about, “…the classic queer experience of being friends with multiple exes.” Subtly soulful and undeniably pretty, Tranbaugh and Co. make music from a headspace that some of us have more trouble getting to than others, but the idealism is plenty contagious.

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!