By James Barker, Staff Writer
With the election results still up in the air and general stress and unrest abounding, I thought now would be as good a time as any to look back on and showcase some of the best queer country drinking songs around.
Country music’s proud tradition of drinking songs is not so much about glamorizing or moralizing drinking as it is a window to explore our feelings and how we cope during hard times, even if our ways of coping aren’t the best for us. And as LGBTQ+ listeners, our experiences of struggle and hardship should also be acknowledged in this.
The following songs are a snapshot of how LGBTQ+ country artists have taken on this theme. Some use comedy, while others floor us with their heart-breaking honesty, but each of these songs are a comfort to us in our struggles. Here are eleven of the best that the queer country drinking song tradition has to offer:
“Feelin’ Single and Seein’ Double,” Chely Wright
Kicking off this list is country queer trailblazer: Chely Wright. One of her early songs, “Feelin’ Single and Seein’ Double” captures the buzz of a good time at the bar with a knowingness that there’ll be hell to pay in the morning.
“I Could Be Drinkin’,” Paisley Fields
Beneath the surface of a drinking song is a sense of why the person is at a bar in the first place. For some, drinking becomes a way to manage the drudgery and monotony of a working day and often treated with a lack of dignity and respect. There’s a wonderful knowing solidarity in the final verse of the song gives voice to Alaine who works at the bar, whose own daily grind consists of the “jerks” who come in after work.
“Whiskey Crime,” Steve Grand
This song is all about feeling low, getting drunk on whiskey and losing control. It really captures the drunk moment of feeling brave and potentially getting into a bar fight, but also knowing that the moment will pass, and, in the morning, there will be consequences.
“Whiskey,” Bethel Steele
Still on the ‘Whiskey’ theme is this next song, an absolute gem from Bethel Steele. Steele’s gorgeous voice ripples with heartache and longing, that the warmth of Jack Daniels is failing to mask.
“Hey Bartender,” Julie Nolen
Nolen’s voice overflows with the energy and vitality of the honkytonk that promises to be both the backdrop and solution to a broken heart. “Hey Bartender” is the ultimate anthem to loneliness but instead of moping, there’s a lot of ‘hell-raisin’ and solidarity to go around.
“Cinderella’s Had a Drink,” Tommy Atkins
Channeling 90s country vibes, this song is from the perspective of the friend who has to look after someone who’s had too much to drink. Underneath the comedy is a warm sense of companionship that is at the heart of a good country drinking song.
“Boys,” Cameron Hawthorn
Hawthorn’s song is another anthem to friendship as he looks forward to a night on the town, dancing in the neon lights. As much as some country songs might warn of the excesses of drinking, the saloon and the bar are important spaces for building a community.
“Drinkin’ Smokin’ Cheatin’,” Brandy Clark
Brandy Clark’s downbeat honkytonk storytelling exposes the way certain behaviours and habits may help us cope in the moment, but the consequences can make our situation even worse. This song perfectly represents the struggle between solace in the moment and longer-term fulfilment.
“Cigarettes,” Luisa Lopez
If a bottle isn’t near, then a cigarette can also see you through the heartache. In many ways this song functions as good as any drinking song where the song enables us to confront the emotions at the heart of our lives, which we sometimes use alcohol or cigarettes to avoid.
“Party of One,” Brandi Carlile
Although less of an obvious drinking song, the lines ‘your constant overthinking and your secretive drinking are making you more and more alone’ capture the painful dynamic at the heart of a country drinking song. Carlile’s voice consoles and soars in all the right places, making this the ultimate country queer drinking song.
“A Case of You,” k.d. lang
Lang’s version of this Joni Mitchell classic transforms the song into a gentle contemplation on loss and loneliness. With the softness of the piano and lang’s purring vocal, this song has the ability to soothe the most broken of hearts and achieve the catharsis that a country drinking song should.
Many of these songs never got the attention and recognition they deserved, in no small part because LGBTQ+ artists barely get played on country radio. So let’s plug that (queer-shaped) hole in the country music bottle now!
Image template link: Art Vectors by Vecteezy