By Christopher Treacy
Welcome to an unusually folky edition of the CQ Roundup—nothing wrong with that! All but one of these tunes come at weighty emotional territory with gentle musical approaches… you might even say they’re ‘loaded.’ The exception is Melissa Carper’s new Odetta cover, which struts along quite marvelously as it celebrates uncompromising individual spirit. The rest sneak up in more subtle ways, recalling troubadours like Paul Simon and Nick Drake. Feels like Fall, Y’all.
Song of The Week: Sam Williams – “Tilted Crown”
One of six new tracks from the deluxe version of Williams’ debut album, “Tilted Crown” is a stunner that coils with emotional tension. As the queer descendant of a high profile musical family, it seems perfectly plausible that the song is about battling the various expectations that might come with that territory, but we wouldn’t want to make any glaring assumptions. Regardless, Williams is carving his own path, creating music that’s definitely rooted in country, but his use of theatrical textures in the production sets him apart. The deluxe version of Glasshouse Children arrived last Friday and it features six additional tracks, lending additional heft to an album that was already impressively candid and loaded with food for thought. Williams certainly has some stories to tell, and you get the distinct impression that bits of autobiography are strewn throughout. Check out the new clip for “Tilted Crown” below.
Melissa Carper – “Hit or Miss”
For the second breakout single on the run up to releasing Ramblin’ Soul (11/18), Carper delivers an Odetta cover celebrating themes of freedom and individuality, which she accomplishes with admirable sass and style. The album features the same lineup of folks that played on her stellar Daddy’s Country Gold album, but this live-at-home version for the new video clip (premiered yesterday at Holler) is just Carper on her trusty upright bass and her friend Kevin Russell, a.k.a. Shinyribs, offering up some ukulele accompaniment, harmony, and some great moves (and even greater shoes!). The interplay between the pair is adorable.
Lauren Scott-Phillips “Handsome Woman”
The new single from Lauren Scott-Phillips is a gorgeous, folksy ode to lesbian love and intimacy, all the while challenging notions about the language we use to describe beauty, particularly with regard to women. “My wife is very feminine, and I’m pretty feminine too, but I have some masculine traits, and I really just didn’t know how I wanted to be described,” she said, reflecting on the song. “I just want to normalize the idea that whoever you want to be, that’s who you should be.” The track is accompanied by a poignant video that captures candid moments of the couple as they prepared for the birth of their first child. While mainstream media shies away from describing the beauty of queer love in such unabashed terms, Scott-Phillips has gone in for the deep dive. Kudos.
Ella Ruby – “In My Car”
The lead track from Ella Ruby’s new Baby Blue EP seems to be about notions of home and the creation of safe spaces. Ruby fills her car with creature comforts and ‘in case of emergency’ items, but it’s the recurring admission that “In my car, my body is mine” and the revelation that she can enjoy locking things out of the car just as much as filling it with important stuff that really illuminates the subtext. Coming off a time when many folks were forced to shelter in place, “in my car” speaks to the concept of home (and it’s implied safety) as a moveable frame of mind.
Matt Foster – “Billy”
Off Foster’s forthcoming True Needs album, “Billy” makes for a mighty haunting love song. The refrain “Isn’t there somewhere we can be alone?” contrasts with the idea of being queer and in love and out in front of the world. It’s sparse and the details are few, but something about “Billy” is deeply affecting—perhaps it’s the looming notion that the relationship depicted is impossible. If it feels like a dream, that’s because it is. At least, for some of us. True Needs arrives on 10/26.
Kuri – “Modern Mayhem”
Kuri makes music that’s generally pretty far off to the side of what we cover here, but we couldn’t resist including this, the final single in the lead up to the release of his second album, I Love You, You’re Welcome, which arrives this Friday, 10/21. The Vancouver-based songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer, aka Scott Currie, takes a looping guitar pattern that strongly recollects Nick Drake and uses it to weave a tale about high school identity—a fragile time for most folks, but particularly difficult for those of us that are somehow queer. The odd time signature keeps us on our toes, tempered by a gorgeous melody and soothing backing vocals.
“I think writing songs IN high school is a lot different than reflecting after the matter,” Kuri said in an accompanying press statement. “This song in particular is about the ways I would mask myself, as many people do, and the ways in which I would find comfort and freedom in the ‘confines of my room’. We all found ways to fit in and find a sense of belonging, even if that meant sacrificing things we loved about ourselves.“
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.