Country Queer

Lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in country and Americana.

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The Proud Love Song of Dawn Riding

By Allison Kinney, Staff Writer

Editor: We’re excited to premiere a video for “Love Song” by Oakland-based band Dawn Riding, which features the potent, intimate photography & videography of queer documentarian Chris Berntsen. Video below.

    Riding out at dawn sounds like something a cowboy might do, but Dawn Riding’s lyrics suggest backyards as well as backroads; passing through a town in the hour when it’s half-gilded and strange to itself, maybe not on a horse but on a bike, or a bus, or the back of someone’s truck. The Oakland-based folk trio (Sarah Rose Janko, Hall McCann, Jasmyn Wong) has written a love song and called it what it is. “Love Song” asks “what’s the best way?” to love somebody, but it doesn’t expect an answer: as Patty Griffin insists in a different song, “there isn’t one way.” “Love Song” offers glimpses of scenes from enough love stories to fill a library – or possibly just one very eventful relationship. The stories aren’t always sweet; sometimes you find love “falling out the windows, or shutting out the sun.” The rolling waltz of the drums and the velvety melancholy of the vocals lulls like a roadtrip through a daydream, through which the guitar glints as the distant horns of a night highway. The music is an invitation to drift into reverie, and the lyrics leave plenty of open space for listeners to hear echoes of their own love stories.

    Like the lyrics, the video is a collage of moments from many people’s lives: hugs, kisses, poses on the porch. An affectionate touch in public can hold an electric charge as strong as “running through the streets screaming tough” – a public gesture of queer tenderness not just as a message from one person to another, but as a broadcast to all bystanders that love exists, and will not be hidden, hushed, or denied. “So many people go nuts,” the song reminds us, “wondering what’s right, or what’s good enough.” But the song also suggests that, as Philip Larkin says in his poem “Faith Healing,” “In everyone there sleeps / A sense of life lived according to love.” The song’s faith in a loving instinct emerges in the final line, the only one in which the singer turns from observer to instructor: “Tell me what you want.”