Country Queer

Lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in country and Americana.

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CQ Roundup with Johanna Wacker, Jacklen Ro, Devon Cole and More

by Christopher Treacy

What can I say? It’s an impressive assortment of queer talent, from the amusing pop of Devon Cole to the gorgeous folky melodies of Normie Girlfriend. All but Jacklen Ro are newcomers to the CQ fold, so jump in and find some new music to love. We sure as hell did.


Courtesy of Maddie Witler

Song of the Week: Maddie Witler – “Rose (the Sentient Cactus)”

As the mandolinist in Lonely Heartstring Band and the GRAMMY nominated Della Mae, Witler has proven musical chops. Her new release, Astronaut, is her first foray as a solo artist and it’s a much fuller display of her musical personality. All seven tracks engage and enchant, but “Rose (the Sentient Cactus)” is the one that really jumped out for its exceptionally playful feel. Backed by an upbeat, Americana-drenched track, Witler tells the story of a sentimental cactus combing the galaxy, searching for some kind of connection. Is it a metaphor about looking for love in all the wrong places? Or maybe just about folks that feel somehow ‘other’ looking for acceptance and friendship? The song is easily likeable and begs enough questions that we made it Song of the Week—a Q&A with Maddie Witler about “Rose (the Sentient Cactus)” will follow tomorrow.

Jacklen Ro – “Sunshine, I’m Counting on You”

Of the various JR singles we’ve championed over this last year, leading up to their full length debut, this seems the most fully realized. The title track from the album, due November 16 on Lollipop Records, “Sunshine…” is clap-along fun. Perhaps less jangly and more clap-along fuzz-pop, the song is a repeat-button-offender of the best kind. With a video built from the concept of sunshine killing vampires (just in time for Halloween), the band appears to be having a blast making the clip. Of the song itself, they say, “The song is all about trusting in the good and that it will come in dark times… Knowing you have someone who will consistently be there for you and make your day a little brighter at the end of the darkness.” Sweet!


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

Johanna Wacker – “You Wanted a Cowboy (But You Got Me)

NYC-based singer-songwriter Johanna Wacker is inspired by old-timey music and vintage country, and you can definitely hear it coming through this single, which talks about something that doesn’t get articulated in song too often. At least, not quite this way. “When I started writing, ‘You Wanted a Cowboy (But You Got Me),’ the first thing I came up with was the hook. I set out to craft an old-timey country lesbian heartbreak song about an experience many of us know all too well: falling for a straight woman. Was this based on a true story? Unfortunately, yes.” Pretty but barbed, it captures the moment in classic country style.

Nakia – “Unstoppable” (Stripped Version)

Austin’s Nakia dabbles in soul-pop and blues but lately has been gravitating towards more Americana-based music. “This song comes from a time when I found myself in place of frustration and fear,” they wrote in to tell us. “It happens more often than not lately. I wanted to talk about how hard it is to look forward when it constantly feels like you’re being held back or pushed down and how we find a way to keep living through it all. This version of ‘Unstoppable’ is one of 4 different ones, including two crazy hot disco remixes by GRAMMY winner Dave Audé. It features just my vocal and an acoustic guitar. I knew immediately I wanted the video to also be “stripped” and I’m very proud of the clip that Catalin Stelian produced.

Devon Cole – “Hey Cowboy”

Well, then! This is certainly amusing, toe-tapping fun. Queer Cole gets worked up listening to other gals sing about sex, so she serves up some of her own good medicine with this quirky hip-shaker, which follows her recent blockbuster, “W.I.T.C.H.” Giddyup, Devon.

Normie Girlfriend – “Cornflower”

The album Rosaries For Sale is DC-based Normie Girlfriend’s debut EP… and we’ll reluctantly admit, we slept on it. While we definitely try and keep our eyes and ears trained for the sounds of new talent that fits into the CQ format, sometimes stuff gets past us. Thankfully, the band’s Madeline Graham (vocals/keys) wrote in to tell us about it. “Cornflower” is gorgeous, featuring Liv Dussere’s banjo and Graham’s vocals coiling with Alicia Coleman’s. The four songs on Rosaries all possess stirring drama built from fairly simple musical tracks that highlight the group’s absolutely arresting vocal performances in high relief… don’t cheat yourself.

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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