Country Queer

Lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in country and Americana.

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CQ Roundup With Mya Byrne & Paisley Fields, Shelly Fairchild & Shamir and More

By Christopher Treacy and Dale Henry Geist

Élise LeBlanc & The Ridgeriders

Mya Byrne and Paisley Fields – “Burn This Statehouse Down”

If you call yourself a Christian act like Jesus
Cos Jesus loved the outlaws just like me
Your cruel words and your actions incite violence
Can’t trick good folks with your hypocrisy

Do you think a drag queen can’t get into heaven?
You’re distracting folks with all these nonsense rules
Do you remember doin drag in 1977?
Yeah, you’ll ban trans kids but you won’t ban guns from school

Queer country stalwarts Paisley Fields and Mya Byrne spearhead this poignant Kill Rock Stars tour de force protest song, which also features Kym Register, Swan Real, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Chris Kelly, Sandy Loam, and Scott Wolfson. Written by Fields, Byrne and Loam as a reaction to ongoing ass-backwards legislation, the song cleverly articulates the blatant government hypocrisy and ensuing queer rage that frames these challenging times, but the two stanzas above say it best.

In a press statement, Mya Byrne sums it up:
“No one deserves to be hurt this way by a government sworn to protect them — whether it’s trans rights, abortion rights, or gay marriage rights, it’s all the same — and all of us need to be turning over the tables. They’re on the wrong side of history, and my hope is this song can illustrate what we’re angry about to folks who wanna understand. Folks like Lee and DeSantis and Abbott are burning the pillars of our houses of democracy. And when you mess with the bull, you damn well get the horns.” 


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

Élise LeBlanc & The Ridgeriders: “The Fiddle and The Fire” (Live at The Cumberland Studio)

Singer-songwriter Élise LeBlanc brings an old-world string sound to us from Vancouver, BC. “The Fiddle and The Fire” is deep-steeped in tones that conjure images of the old Southwest mixed with traditional folk and bits of Appalachia. The result is something unusual within a modern context, marrying past and present with a near-gothic sense of foreboding. Her band, The Ridgeriders, brings this tale to life via upright bass, fiddle, brushed drumming and carefully placed, stirring harmonies… if we didn’t know it was written recently, we’d swear it was a vintage folk tale.

Shelly Fairchild & Shamir – “Fist City”

Loretta wasn’t kidding around, and neither is Shelly. Or Shamir.

The first Shelly Fairchild single in her new partnership with Kill Rock Stars is a cover of Loretta Lynn’s 1968 single, “Fist City,” and while it may seem playful to a 21st century audience, it’s meant in all seriousness. Lynn wrote the song as a means of addressing her husband’s infidelities while she was on tour, airing their dirty laundry in a very public way and getting her warning of a good ol’ fashioned woman-on-woman walloping onto the radio. Unfortunately, country radio being what it was at the time, “Fist City” was banned… which underscores its tone of feminine assertion and makes it a perfect choice for Fairchild to release during Women’s History Month as well as in the wake of the troubling legislation that Mya and Paisley are addressing in “Burn This Statehouse Down.” And, of course, as a celebratory way of mourning the loss of Loretta Lynn. Incidentally, the video for “Fist City” was shot at the Lynn’s ranch in Hurricane Mills, TN.

From the accompanying press materials: “I was scheduled to record at Blackbird Studios in Nashville with Blackbird Academy students, and as I was driving to the studio for my second day of tracking, I got a text that said Loretta had passed,” Shelly told us. As an admirer and friend of the Lynn family, the loss was heartbreaking. “Her music changed the face of Country for women. She wrote about what she was living, and she did not apologize.”

“The music of Loretta Lynn has always been a source of comfort,” Shamir shares. “My love of country first began when I got my first radio when I was 9 years old. Every Sunday morning my local country station would play classic country and oldies, of course Loretta’s music was frequently played. The cherry on top of it all was being able to shoot in Hurricane Mills – it was incredible to see all her awards and collectibles.”

Abby Dormer – “Fig Tree”

NYC based singer-songwriter Abby Dormer captures the warm musical spirit of early Joni Mitchell on this track, marrying it with her own personality to create something that’s simultaneously new and familiar. Our only complaint is that it’s over way too fast. Building on knowledge gleaned from childhood piano lessons, Dormer has since taught herself acoustic guitar, mandolin and Irish bouzouki – you can definitely hear her love of traditional Celtic music seeping through.

Dormer wrote in to tell us, “…Inspired by Sylvia Plath’s “Fig Tree” passage from The Bell Jar, I wanted to write a song about the desire to live a thousand lives and to be a thousand things, and the paralysis that accompanies having an abundance of choice. “Fig Tree” is a warm, earthy folk/pop song, with a touch of melancholy below the surface. Featuring my Irish bouzouki and forward-moving percussion, along with an undulating, uneasy violin, this is a quietly urgent tale of analysis paralysis and time slowly getting away from us.”

Jessie Haines – “The Ride”

“Another year gone by, I lie and say ‘it’s stable’
I try to remember my old self but I’m not able…”

You were so beautiful, You were the air that I breathed
The truth be told, now I can see, I never even thought about me

The latest installment as Jessie Haines unveils her debut full length, The Phoenix, track by track, reveals the cracks in the façade of the toxic relationship chronicled over the album’s arc. “The Ride” showcases the gift of hindsight, when trauma is far enough in our rearview that we can begin to see a situation for what it was… and how we lost ourselves in it. The tasteful but polished production works well here to mimic how easy it is to get swept up. Thankfully, it’s a song – safe to revisit as many times as we’d like.

Izzy Heltai – “All of This Beauty”

Heltai’s new single has been his set-closer for a few years, but it’s finally seeing a proper release and it’s worth the wait. A song of gratitude sung in hushed tones, “All of This Beauty” is a plain-stated reveal that finds Heltai at their most vulnerable… which is what makes it so powerful.

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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