Country Queer

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CQ Roundup With Johanna Wacker, Donnie Lee Strickland, Sophie Rose and More!

By Christopher Treacy

Single Art for “Be Careful”

“Once a year the holidays come swinging at your head/Feast until you’re full of pain again.” This line from Jonatha Brooke’s song “Secrets and Lies” always struck me. In my late twenties when I first heard it, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around what she meant. To me, at that time, working in the service industry, ‘the holidays’ were an annoyance for sure, but not something I equated with emotional pain. I was more just resentful because it seemed like folks in a class somewhere above me were allowed to relax, enjoy, and be with each other, while me? I had to work. Always. I knew coworkers that would request time off to be with their loved ones and I’d privately seethe about how lucky they were, wondering where the extra money came from that allowed them such enviable freedom.

In the end, I had it wrong. There wasn’t any so-called ‘extra money.’ It was a matter of priorities. But as someone so desperately stuck in survival mode, I couldn’t understand that. As I’ve grown older, however, I get it. They were making a choice, come what may.

The Jonatha Brooke quote (a fave songwriter of mine, truth told) still startles me, but it underscores that this time of year brings out the best in some folks and the worst in others. For some, it’s a joyful time of reflection and reconnection. For others, it’s a reminder of painful things they’d sooner forget but, for whatever reason, cannot.

Try not to let the holidays take a swing at your head. Or, y’know… duck.


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own


Song of The Week: Madi Diaz, S.G. Goodman, & Joy Oladokun – “Be Careful”

This gorgeous cover of a song from Patty Griffin’s landmark1000 Kisses album feels so timely, especially given the context of it’s release in the run-up to midterm elections. While the song could certainly be interpreted a few different ways, “Be Careful” reads like a message of caution written by a woman reflecting on (some of) the many different ways that girls come of age while also pointing out some of the common denominators between them all… threads that unite, alternately underscoring fragility and strength and the relationship between the two. This version comes with a new verse, written by Diaz, that uses Griffin’s poetry as a jumping off point; it fits within the scheme of her lyrics very well: “For all the parents who are losing sleep/For all the babies that will come to be/For all the reasons that are ours to know/It’s my choice and I am not alone/For every man who’s standing next to me/and queer and trans and non-binary/For everybody with their own body/I will meet you all out on the streets/So be careful how you bend me/Be careful where you send me/Careful how you end me/Be careful with me.”

We got to ask the trio of Diaz, Goodman, and Oladokun, some questions about their collaboration, which will run later this week. In the meanwhile, enjoy “Be Careful.”

Proceeds from sales of “Be Careful” benefit Abortion Within Reach Coalition

Donnie Lee Strickland – “Warm Tears & Cold Beers”

Strickland’s sound has always been rooted in classic, radio-friendly country, and “Warm Beers and Cold Tears” is no exception. An electric but gentle heartland rocker, the track highlights his reedy baritone while cleverly plotting a path through those dark days that ensue in the wake of a breakup. “I gave you the best of me, now the rest of me, misses me too,” he asserts, making ..”.Coronas and limes on a corner stool,” sounds plenty inviting.

Johanna Wacker – “Guardian Angel Ring”

Self reliance is great, but sometimes we need to put our faith in something other than ourselves. Wacker’s latest single takes a folktale approach to that concept with a story about a ring that has no monetary value but nonetheless speaks truth to whoever wears it. Dulcet banjo tones give the song an oldtimey feel that helps put the story across. This one’s a keeper, especially for those of us that are open to signs from the universe.

Sophie Rose – “To The Core”

U.K.-based Sophie Rose follows up her late summer single, “Healing in the Burn” with this surefooted-sounding love song, which is also the title track from her new four song EP. She’s in a vulnerable spot, offering herself to someone, and yet there’s an undeniable confidence coming through the vocal (which, by the way, is refreshingly free of the over production that mars so much mainstream music these days). There’s no resolution, no ending—no neat little bow that ties it all together before a curtain drops. Just the offering. And it’s plenty powerful, just let to sit with us that way.

poolblood – “My Little Room”

Toronto-based Maryam Said, the artist behind poolblood, offers up “My Little Room” as the latest single from their forthcoming full length, mole, out January 13 on Next Door Records. Co-produced with Shamir and Louie Short. “My Little Room” reveals a hearty helping of Said’s quirky musical personality, showing off how they make a lot from a little. Childishly crooned vocals create tension against a guitar’s insistent strum, eventually joined by horns and strings—it whips up into a sweet cacophony and then dissipates, leaving wisps of trumpet in its wake. Said’s creating something unusual here; we’ll undoubtedly be hearing more from them.

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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