By Sydney Miller, Associate Editor
[NOTE: This article was originally published in conjunction with International Lesbian Day.]
In case you didn’t know, October 9 is International Lesbian Day, a day to celebrate lesbians and lesbian culture around the world. We do our best to celebrate lesbian country musicians every day, but today we’re give an extra-special shoutout to some the most sapphic songs from ten amazing lesbians.
Katie Pruitt – “Loving Her”
I’ll start off with my personal favorite on this list, Katie Pruitt. Pruitt’s album Expectations was the first thing I reviewed for CQ, and I became obsessed with the album. I got a signed vinyl copy and assorted stickers, including a delightful “Katie Pruitt Made Me Cry” one that lives on my thermos. I absolutely love that Katie has been outspoken and vocal about current issues, dropping a protest song earlier this month. But my pick for her queerest song is “Loving Her,” off her debut album. It’s a sweet and wholesome testament to coming out, accepting who you love, and being accepted by those who love you. There’s several other songs that deal specifically with her sexuality on the album, but this one is by far my favorite.
Brandy Clark – “Girl Next Door”
I got into Brandy Clark’s music before I knew she was a lesbian, and while I adore all her songs, I am slightly disappointed that there aren’t more explicitly queer songs in her repertoire. But if you give some of her stuff a deeper listen, there’s a deep undercurrent of rejecting compulsory heterosexuality and a general “men ain’t shit” vibe. My favorite of these songs — of which Brandy has quite a few — is “Girl Next Door,” a thumping anthem that asserts that she is absolutely not going to give in to what society or any man thinks she should.
Amythyst Kiah – “Wild Turkey”
Unfortunately, this song isn’t one that’s released on Spotify or any other streaming services yet. But we all know and love Amythyst Kiah (at least you should, especially if you’ve heard her on our podcast). I’m in love with her 2013 album, but what I’m really looking forward to is her next release. I saw her at D.C.’s 9:30 Club in January when she opened for Yola, and oh boy, did she put out some bangers! As my father said, “You’ve got to be a pretty damn good musician to let Amythyst Kiah open for you.” One of those bangers was “Wild Turkey,” a mournful breakup song that showcases her amazing voice.
(I’d also like to give a special shoutout to her cover of “Jolene,” which gives the listener the distinct sense that the narrator is actually yearning for Jolene herself.)
The Highwomen – “If She Ever Leaves Me”
Some historically-minded folks were miffed when The Highwomen announced that this was the “first gay country song.” It’s definitely not (but we think we know what is – it’s called “Lavender Cowboy”). But to be fair to Brandi Carlile, who sings it, and songwriters Amanda Shires, Jason Isbell, and Chris Tompkins, who wrote it, it’s a singular milestone to put out an unequivocally gay country song that’s this mainstream and has such industry support. It was the first “gay” country song I ever heard, and it made me so freaking happy to hear it. Plus, it’s a good song! It’s sweet, wholesome and has a happy ending, which isn’t something lesbians get a lot of in popular media.
Jaime Wyatt – “Make Something Outta Me”
Jamie Wyatt is the badass lesbian that straight men are scared of, and I love her for it. She’s strong and proud, and she takes no shit. Her album Neon Cross is chock-full of “I’m here, I’m queer, and you need to get over it” energy, so it’s hard to pick one song as the queerest. I’m going to go with “Make Something Outta Me,” the kind of song you play when you’re driving down a suburban street and you see just one too many Trump signs so you roll the windows down and turn the music up to piss off the Boomers.
Jaimee Harris – “Fake”
I feel a little bad picking this song for Jaimee Harris, because if you haven’t heard her stuff, you might think she’s a morose indie musician based on this song alone. But as I was going through her album, Red Rescue, this one really stood out to me as the most Sapphic. As I hear it, this song is about someone on the cusp of coming out, someone who recognizes their feelings for another woman but is too afraid to act on them. Acting straight can feel almost debilitatingly fake — any queer person who’s had to spend extended time with their family can tell you that — and this song hits that sweet spot of feeling too scared to show your true self, and guilty that you’re hurting people. (Also, just so you know, Jaimee Harris is a boot-stomping badass, and she has many other songs that rock with that righteous twanginess.)
Chely Wright – “Picket Fences”
I will admit, I actually had no idea who Chely Wright was before I read the refreshingly forthright interview we published this week. That’s because I’m a junior in college and I’m woefully undereducated on the delights of 90s country, because that was the decade my parents stopped listening to country music and I was, of course, not alive. That said, I was enthralled when I read the interview and listened to her music — to me, it sounds like any other 90s country, and the fact that she could be that successful and mainstream and still find the courage to come out warms my heart. She must have psychically known we were putting this list together and that it would be written by the youngest staff member, because in her interview she specifically mentioned the song “Picket Fences” as one in which she subverted gender norms and was able to be as authentic as she could be about herself at that time.
Mary Gauthier – “Different Kind of Gone”
Mary Gauthier is another veteran of country music, but I’m more familiar with her stuff. I dove into her repertoire earlier this year, when I did my piece about non-binary country artists (Gauthier identifies as two-spirited). Her song “Different Kind of Gone” stood out to me as a sweet, soulful and remorseful breakup song that I associate specifically with Sapphic heartbreak.
Indigo Girls – “Country Radio”
“Country Radio” by the Indigo Girls is the testament of gay experiences when a song like “If She Ever Leaves Me” was never even a possibility. Songs like these, which lament the loneliness of being a “Gay kid in a small town / Who loves country radio,” make me so grateful and happy for the next generation, for people like my little sister, who will get to grow up in a world that has multiple mainstream gay songs country and other genres. The song is mournful but hopeful, with a nice bit of twang, which I feel like is pretty much how life is for lesbians.
Brittany Howard – “Georgia”
I thought I’d round this list out with a song that encapsulates the most basic lesbian emotion – yearning. This song may not be at the top of Brittany fans’ list, but it’s so overwhelmingly Sapphic that I had no choice. “I just want Georgia to notice me,” she sings, and the fuzzed out guitar climaxes into an intense solo that feels like pining set to music.
Hope you found something here to delight your ears. Happy International Lesbians Day, y’all!