Country Queer

Lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in country and Americana.

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CQ Roundup with Jim Andralis, Payphones, and Brian Falduto

By Christopher Treacy

It’s all about mental health. I guess maybe it’s always been all about mental health, but now we have a tendency to approach everything from a clinical perspective. We need to diagnose it and label it, perhaps with the hope that we’ll then do a better job of dealing with it. While this completely makes sense to me on the one hand, something simultaneously feels weird about it.

A friend who’s a mental health professional messaged me the other day along with a clip of Janis Joplin performing on the Dick Cavett show. He asked me if I thought her trauma was showing. I was momentarily stunned. After thinking it over, I concluded that yes, it must be… in as much as it was part of her whole being. I’ve always taken Janis at face value, and she poured every little bit of herself into her performances, so if there’s trauma in there, surely that’s part of what came out. I’m very familiar with her story. I’ve read a couple books about her and have seen at least two documentaries. I know that her adolescent years in Port Arthur TX were painful. But what startled me about his question was, despite knowing the details of the story, I’d never looked at her through such a clinical lens. It makes it difficult to hear her, actually… to just take in the performance and be awed by its power and passion.

Life is tough. Some of us get shoved around more than others. Art is a way of expressing and processing difficult feelings. So, mental health and art are inextricably linked. More and more, we see songwriters openly addressing this in their work. This week, one way or another, it crops up in all of our Roundup songs. New to CQ, Edmonton alt-folk outfit Payphones leads the way with a tune about the weird dilemma of falling for someone that’s unwell; Lindsay White’s “No Stopping It” dwells on how anxiety keeps coming back, disguised in different ways, while the new Caroline Rose single touches on the painful aftermath of a breakup. Jim Andralis wrote an ode to a friend that committed suicide, while Brian Falduto and US National Youth Poet Laureate (2019-2020) Kara Jackson offer up two very distinctly different songs about learning self-worth and asking for more.

-CT

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A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

Song of The Week: Payphones – “Can’t Escape It”

Some of us are better wired to be supportive and compassionate than others. Some of us like to be caregivers and seem to be able to balance it without ignoring our own needs. The world needs more of that. But falling in love with somebody that’s in poor mental health is daunting. On the one hand, everybody deserves love and acceptance. Problems can arise when codependency develops. Or, what if the other person isn’t interested in working on their mental health? Maybe they’re addicted to the rush of mania or they don’t recognize depression. On some level, this is what Naomi Jichita was writing about when they penned “Can’t Escape It,” the lead single from the debut album by their band, Payphones.

We talked with Naomi about the song and their band in a Q&A that will run tomorrow. In the meanwhile, check out “Can’t Escape It.” Payphones grew from a folk duo into a full-on, four-piece band, taking the pared-down songs Jichita had written over many years and delivering them on the debut album, Rioting Heart, in a more fully realized musical state.


Jim Andralis – “Your Dying Wish Come True”

Reincarnation. Especially in the midst of dark times, it’s a pleasing concept: a clean slate. A chance to go back to the beginning and let ourselves (hopefully) be nurtured. To experience the simplicity of youth again. “Your Dying Wish Come True” is a song included in the new reissue of the album Andralis released in 2016, recorded nearly a decade ago, which features all of the tracks originally intended for the album. The title song was originally left off the set, but we get to hear it now, and you can definitely get a sense of the song’s emotional weight through his impassioned vocal. When someone chooses to leave us, maybe the best possible outcome for us—left here to wrestle with our thoughts and feelings about it—is to get to a place where we genuinely hope they got what they wanted

“I wrote it shortly after the suicide of my friend (and engineer and producer), Jim Bentley,” Andralis revealed to us. “It’s my wish for him that his suicide was an act of hope, granting his own wish of a new life filled with love and safety. I sing it with Larry Krone, my husband. “


Kara Jackson – “dickhead blues”

Shock and awe.
“I’m not as worthless as I once thought/ I am pretty top notch,” Kara Jackson repeatedly affirms in this sassy kiss off that delivers brass-knuckle blows with the grace of a true poet. Traditional song structures be damned, Jackson bends and twists this tune to fit her narrative and it surprises and delights at every turn.
“When you’re stuck sinkin’ in someone else’s lagoon/Like a spoon drowns in a stew/What kind of meal are they makin’ of you?” The imagery is bold and vivid while the phrasing is a cunning, sucker punch. Jackson has whipped up one hell of an advance track from her new album… more will be revealed in the near future.


Brian Falduto – “Big Boys Club”

Falduto’s drawing a line in the sand with his new single, another big country anthem that sounds like it belongs on commercial country radio (and there’s nothing wrong with that!). Tired of the twinky-dink reindeer game routines, he’s looking for something with a bit more substance… can we blame him? “Big Boys Club” is a 3:20 blast of surefootedness and a reminder that it’s okay to say what you want. Level up, Bitches.


Lindsay White – “No Stopping It”

A subtly addictive, gently rocking groove leads us into San Diego-based White’s latest single, an unabashedly honest appraisal of how she deals with anxiety – for better or worse, but as she notes, it’s “better out than in.”

She wrote it two years ago, “…back then it was mostly panic attacks and disordered eating,” she explained, right as 2022 was drawing to a close. “After my daughter was born, the coping mechanisms and compulsive behaviors morphed into something called dermatillomania, or skin-picking. Sometimes it’s frustrating to feel like my body is playing this sick game of emotional whack-a-mole…”

The single artwork—photo by Sydney Valiente—reflects her ‘is-what-it-is’ sentiment. White, wearing just a flannel shirt, sits on the floor with her legs exposed, scars and all.


Caroline Rose – “Miami”

On the first single off their forthcoming new album, The Art of Forgetting (out 3/24 on New West Records), Rose continues musically shape-shifting, serving up this explosive track that musically mirrors the heartbreak it chronicles. The backwards trajectory of the video clip underscores the idea of a wanting to go back to when things were more blissful… or, perhaps, wanting to rewind life to avoid going down a specific road in the first place. In the middle of it, a conversation with Mom sums it up: living is difficult. Even with all our modern-convenience ‘stuff,’ we’ve actually made it more challenging than it was for our parents. What’s more, we now give ourselves permission to feel these things and air them rather than bottling them up.

“I say this all the time, Ma/But I’m really doing fine, Ma/I’m mean you know sometimes, Ma/Life is just plain trying, Ma/Just because I’m brooding/And wanna kill everything moving/It doesn’t mean I’m losing my marbles/I’m just moody…”


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’s the Managing Editor for CQ and lives in Waitsfield, VT.


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