Country Queer

Lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in country and Americana.

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CQ Roundup With Larah Helayne, Mya Byrne, and FONTINE

By Christopher Treacy

Photo Credit: Jen Doerksen

We’re into deep winter at this point. February is usually the month where I begin losing my patience with the season. This year, I’m so incredibly busy, I don’t have time to be annoyed with deep winter. It’s a strange thing, the increased speed with which time seems to pass as we get older. In grade school, seasons seemed of epic length. Perhaps even stranger is our tendency to romanticize things we used to dislike when we’re no longer faced with them. Time moves so quickly now, I almost wish I had more of it to feel annoyed by February’s glum cast. These ideas relate to the songs in this week’s CQ Roundup. ‘Nuff said.


Song of the Week: FONTINE – “Yarrow Lover”

Back in late 2022, we included FONITNE’s “Homemaker” in the Roundup, and it was out introduction to this Winnipeg-based songwriter. “Homemaker” was about realizing the differences in how you and your partner see the future, and the process of coming to terms with having different dreams. It also touched on gender roles and domestic patterns that not everybody subscribes to. Now we get a more complete picture, as FONTINE releases her full EP, Yarrow Lover, which comes out today. In what comes across as a 6-song suite of breakup tunes, FONTINE sings (rather beautifully, we might add) of the various stages in a romantic unraveling. The title track is rife with melancholy and the realization that letting go is likely the only way forward. We got to talk with FONTINE about the song, the process of writing her new EP, and the musical choices she made for it. The Q&A will run tomorrow. Meanwhile, here’s “Yarrow Lover.”

Mya Byrne – “Lend You a Hand”

Hymnlike and comforting, the third advance track from Mya’s forthcoming Rhinestone Tomboy (Kill Rock Stars Nashville, 4/28) is a song of love and solidarity on the surface, but some time after writing it she said she realized she’d meant it for herself. It works marvelously either way and stands as a reminder that we need to advocate for ourselves as well as for each other. Mya recorded the vocal in one take, and the results are quite powerful. Also powerful is the mark she’s making on the trajectory of country music: her video for “It Don’t Fade,” featuring girlfriend Swan Real, was added to rotation on CMT Music, crediting the pair with the first nationally broadcast kiss between two trans lesbians.


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

Emét – “Your Best Marionette”

Emét wrote in to let us know that their new ‘single’ isn’t really a single, per se, but more of a theme song… a 70 second intro to their forthcoming album of the same name, which is a sequel to 2022’s debut full length, Carlin’s Farm. Recorded in Canada, the album will be released as an accumulating series of singles, and this is our first taste. You can easily hear the basis for the Vance Joy comparisons and, despite it just being a short teaser, their storytelling game is strong – we want to know more.

Larah Helayne – “State Line”

We missed this one last summer, so we’re including it now. Relocated in Kentucky, queer Appalachian musician Larah Helayne released Good Riddance last summer, their second EP and “a time capsule of their teens” growing up in Virginia… which, as we might imagine, contains both the good and the bad. Helayne is a lover of traditional music but has a sweet tooth for pop, which you can hear subtly poking through the EP’s five tracks much more so than on the 2018 debut, Roots. As for “State Line,” it effectively captures the inner yearning for familiarity that has a way of glorifying the past. The heated romantic energy comes through loud and clear.

Kristian Montgomery & The Winterkill Band – “Gypsy Girl”

Montgomery’s latest is an earnest, heartland rocker with plenty of hooks and an impressive, belted vocal. It’s a spirited song of warning about becoming too consumed. We never heed these warnings, do we? If we did, songwriters would be in a tough spot. Meanwhile, the new album, Lower County Outlaw, is available to order at Bandcamp and should be streaming sometime soon.

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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