Country Queer

Lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in country and Americana.

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CQ Roundup with Rachel Garlin, Erin Rae, Zack Day and more…

By Christopher Treacy

We had so many worthwhile submissions, a Roundup seemed the best way to go… have at it!


Rachel Garlin – “Please Therese”

“Please Therese” is taken from Garlin’s ambitious new concept album, The Ballad of Madelyne & Therese, a cycle of tracks about a lesbian love affair burning bright (but very much on the downlow) in 1940’s NYC. Over an engrossing thirteen tracks, Garlin examines the pair’s ongoing tryst through multiple lenses and from various vantage points, honing in on the strained lines between love, desire, self acceptance and societal judgment at a time of war (amongst other things) in our cultural history. “Please Therese” sparkles with a bit of rootsy twang as Madelyne surrenders to her truth, acknowledging that her poetically termed ‘disease’ isn’t going anywhere.  “I believe that we could be peculiar and at ease / Because we’re well beyond a cure but we’re alive,” Garlin sings, inhabiting a character that’s no longer interested in the pain of denial. The song exists at a thrilling intersection for queer people, but a different one than coming out. This is about owning who you are to yourself and one other person, which is a more intimate (and in some ways, more satisfying) thrill that’s less written about but in nonetheless an integral part of letting our queer selves develop. Against the black & white backdrop of NYC some eighty years ago, it’s even more striking.


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

“I’ve always been fascinated by stories of non-straight girls and women from eras long ago,” says Garlin. “As a kid I scanned the cultural scene for someone, anyone, who was like me — Pippi Longstocking? Punky Brewster? Jo from “Facts of Life”? But there was rarely confirmation that the characters I admired were living outside of hetero-normativity. On a visceral level, I knew that many girls and women who came before me had identities that were outside the norm. That curiosity grew into an interest and study of the subcultures from 1940s that gave rise to LGBTQ+ living long before it had an acronym.”

Julian Wolf – “East Kentucky Morning”

Wolf captures a stunning sunrise vibe here that places you right beside him, on the precipice as a new day unfolds. We love the centeredness radiating from this track, channeling a level of soothing calm that’s in short supply lately.

Burry – “Dear Old Friend”

Halifax’s Burry released “Dear Old Friend” back a while and we missed it, but this new documentary-style video (revolving around Burry’s top surgery) gives us an excellent excuse to include it now. Burry’s been releasing music since 2018, cobbling together a captive Canadian audience for their musical blend of indie rock with folksy elements. “Dear Old Friend” speaks to innumerable queer truths, floating by on a refreshingly warm breeze of fresh flowers and freedom. You can’t help but get swept up in the undertow.

Elizabeth Moen – “I Never Get Lonesome”

On her latest EP, For Arthur, Moen pays tribute to the late bisexual musician Arthur Russell, using her bluesy lilt to put her own spin on five of his more acoustically grounded tunes. Russell died of complications related to HIV/AIDS in 1992 and had remained relatively unknown during his lifetime. But in the 30 years since his passing, appreciation for his eclectic body of work has grown considerably, making him into a cult figure whose musical genius continues resonating today. “I Never Get Lonesome” is one of his best known songs and has a firm footing in Americana, something Moen’s version leaves undisturbed.

Moen didn’t realize Russell was from nearby her own Iowan hometown until after she’d left for Chicago, but her enthusiasm for his work wasn’t the least bit diminished.

“I found Arthur’s music after I moved from Iowa,” she tells us. “I felt an instant connection and when I saw he was also from a small town in Iowa, I got pretty emotional. To know that someone whose music I sincerely felt compelled by was from a town not far from my own meant a lot to me. It can be easy to feel isolated even looking back at memories of feeling alone there and his music feels like a friend looking back at those times together.”

Reflecting on the lack of acceptance Russell felt in Iowa, Moen is donating all proceeds from her Bandcamp sales of the EP to support One Iowa (, a nonprofit organization that works to improve the lives of LGBTQ members of the state.

Erin Rae – “Bad Mind (feat. She Returns From War) – Live and From the Heart Version

Erin Rae has announced a new live album and a fall tour to support it. Lighten Up & Try: Live & From the Heart will release ala Thirty Tigers on August 25 and this version of “Bad Mind” is the first taste of the album, which was captured on a portable Panasonic cassette recorder last summer. The lo-fi media gives the album a fantastic, audience recorded bootleg feel… the off-the-cuff spontaneity that’s missing from so many live albums is kept wholly intact here. “Bad Mind,” you may recall, is Erin Rae’s poignant statement about coming up in an area of the country where people feel forced to hide their true selves, her absorption of those ideas and then reckoning with them as a queer adult. Hunter Park, a.k.a. She Returns From War, offers impressive harmony vocals.

Gary Cawker – “I Know It’s Not Fire (But Why Does It Burn?)”

London UK based singer-songwriter Gary Cawker grew up in Southern Africa. “Think of him as a queer kid being influenced by the sounds you’d hear on Paul Simon’s Graceland mixed with a dose of Tom Petty,” we’re told, and y’know what? It works. We love the live sound of this recording – you can hear the space in the room, giving the track an organic glory that’s in short supply elsewhere. The upright bass line and harmony vocals deserve a chef’s kiss as Cawker debates (in hymnlike fashion) how to think about different kinds of relationships and the corresponding investments we make in them.

Devon Cole – “Dickhead”

Yet another pleasing rompity-bop from Devon Cole. Clever wordplay stacked on top of a pulsing dance beat with a fuzzy guitar riff that adds in just a touch of Americana… what’s not to love?

Cate Carter – “Woman Always Know”

…and indeed, they do. Intuition can be a bitch. Carter’s latest single may seem a bit glass-half-empty, but it’s slick and infectious in all the best ways, a bona fide country rocker with a shout-along chorus. Let it take you!

Zach Day – “New York”

Day says his new single, “…was a hard one for me to write, my mind was foggy and I felt like a chunk of me was missing. @hanaelion helped me wrap my brain around what I wanted to say and we made ‘New York.’ I’m proud of this one!” As well he should be: Day seems to have a knack for capturing the gray areas in complicated queer relationships through his songwriting, offering up snapshots that tell the parts of the story he deems relevant to create an emotionally charged scene. At times, “New York” glides by like a lullaby, but it’s far too compelling to usher in sleep.

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 lives in Waitsfield, VT.

Got a great new song? Submit it to CQ!