Welcome to all the new subscribers I met last week at the Hester Street Zine Fair! I try not to write screeds like this too often -- but here goes!
Things have been blissfully quiet on the queer country front -- so that means nobody has made any new nakedly transphobic statements, at least not in country music. Just today, David Browne wrote a short article in Rolling Stone about how openly discussing politics has had a chilling effect on country music.
Oh no!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why don't we get along doesn't actually work?!
The quotes in the article are especially gut-churning -- essentially, a pair of promoters who say pretty openly that they don't care what an artist does or says as long as they can sell tickets. But politics has been bad for business because it means some artists might not do as well in conservative parts of the country. They sources suggest that one politics "calms down," things will go smoother in country music.
There's a nostalgia here that I find especially insidious -- basically, nostalgia for a time when nobody talked politics at all (the undercurrent being that conservative political expression is totally fine.) There's more I want to say about this, but it'll have to wait til next week when some articles I've been cooking up will be published (though you can read Austin Lucas's interview about coming out and how their audience has changed since over on Patreon for $2 a year, and an abridged version here next week.)
Country music at its best is at once a declaration for and critique of the American dream: freedom is glorious, the hard work to get there sucks, and all-too-often, people fail. What happens to an American dream deferred? We've been sold this idea, and where has it got us? This is what the classic country songs ask, whether it's songs of heartbreak or lamenting poverty. Since 9/11, as we all know, the tenor is not to question country life at all -- that it's good to be proud and ignorant and, in the case of the otherwise excellent Neon Union song "American Dirt," literally get horny for farmland.
Queer country, at its best, asks those questions again for a new generation: why are we shut out of this American project? Do we make it better, or burn it all down? I think that's part of why so many people regard it as dangerous.
But they won't say that outloud: what they're willing to acknowledge publicly is a fear for getting hurt in the bottom line. It's new. What if it flops. Money talks.
I'm so thrilled that Americanafest is at least featuring LGBTQ+ artists in its official Americana Proud showcase. It's taken a literal decade to get one, and that's the result of countless artists (many of whom aren't even playing the showcase) demanding it. Going back to the previous discussion of pigeonholing, we need these showcases to show that not only are we here, not only are we good, but we can draw a damn crowd. In this week's Rainbow Rodeo podcast, Maia Sharp explains that she wants to be recognizes as an artist, not just an LGBTQ+ one.
As RJ Romeo, a talent agent, says in the Rolling Stone article, music should bring us together. But not when the artists denegrate their audience. Nashville, like all bastions of whiteness, has a noxious culture of living and let live, getting along to get along. And don't talk about politics or diversity. The only place someone questioned my presence in a women's restroom on my last trip was at a diversity and music mixer. But, you know, don't rock the boat. It's bad for business. So does alienating people, so why does one calculation outweigh the other?
If you click one link this week, let it be this one. Pine & Fire make some of the finest radical folk music I've heard this side of Adeem the Artist
Kym Register + Meltdown Rodeo believe in a better South on the album Meltdown Rodeo
This month's podcast is with Maia Sharp. We talk starting over in Nashville after divorcing your wife of 21 years, hitting your stride, and playing softball.
This weeks playlist rocks new music from Jenny Owen Youngs, Izzy Heltai, Autumn Nicholas, and more!
The inestimable New Orleans music journalist Keith Serpa wrote a profile on Black Opry member Joy Clark
Read Mya Byrne's thread about the dangers of touring while trans and what we can do about it
Speaking of my trip to Nashville, you can now watch Adeem the Artist's performance at the Grand Ole Opry
Cindy Emch of Secret Emchy Society made a playlist of all the LGBTQ+ artists playing Americanafest
Congrats to Ty Herndon and Alex Schwartz on their nuptials! It still tickles me to see same-sex marriages features in People Magazine
Sam Williams, Hank Williams' grandson, has some things to say to people who denigrate his music and sexuality
Support disabled artists when you support Rampd
Are you on BlueSky? I made a feed for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC country music!
If you’re here, you like music zines. Longtime Wide Open Country contributor Addie Moore is taking pre-orders for their indie punk zine No Spectators
You can get almost 50% off the book Queer Country using this code: F21UIP
This thread gives advice on self-managed transition in Alabama and other states that restrict our bodily autonomy
And here’s a directory of DIY HRT
Eli Conley is running a queer songwriting circle