ose of you unfamiliar with the Jewish calendar, this weekend marks Rosh Hoshanah, the new year, and next week will mark Yom Kippur, our day of repentance and desire to cleanse ourselves ahead of the new year, recommitting to striving for a more loving, joy-filled life.
My weekly missives have been kind of...bitter? lately, so this is my own pledge to hit the brakes on that. I had planned to write a bit more about Americanafest, which is also starting this weekend, and their track record with LGBTQ+ artists. There's a lot of great work there, of course, and definitely still more to be done. But many Jews will be spending the Days of Awe (the week between the two holidays) asking for forgiveness and, in turn, forgiving others for their transgressions. So that's an attitude I need to start taking about country music -- because, as we well know, there's a lot to be forgiven. It's exciting that Americanafest is, at last, officially recognizing the need for LGBTQ+ spaces within the festival itself, and here's hoping that they can, in turn, be open about their own mistakes as they move forward.
Adeem the Artist's interview in the Nashville Scene got me thinking about how we can get the music industry -- much less people at large -- to reflect on their actions. As Adeem points out, it's not necessarily that "Try That in a Small Town" was able to make it past dozens and dozens of people and get on the radio because there are so many moustache-twirling racists who wanted to see it happen, it's that there are so many white people who do not interact with anyone who has a different perspective than themselves, and therefore couldn't have realized just how threatening the song actually is. That's the elasticity and fragility of white supremacy: so many people see it as normal, and then freak the fuck out when their worldview is challenged at all.
As queer people, so much of our coming out process is learning to dismantle what we thought were foundational aspects of our lives: gender roles, marriage to someone of a different sex without question, having children, family first. For some of us, this is or was a painful process, the fear that we would be isolated forever from the people we grew up with. It's also a joyful process, discovering the strings that pull the marionettes of our society, and learning to cut them away from ourselves. I'm sure every queer person reading this can think of times when they hear a cishet person complain about relationships or family and we realize it's not even a discussion in our own relationships.
I think that's something that makes queer country music really powerful: we use one of the most normative genres to chip away at the very foundations of what it seeks to establish about gender, family, and society.
Anyway, I've got two playlists for you today: if you're looking for some spiritual music, Rabbi Sandra Lawson (who is LGBTQ+ and an Americana artists herself) created a playlist for the new year. I've also put together a playlist of timely songs by queer Jewish country artists -- not surprisingly, that's a significant subsection of queer country artists overall.
Americanafest starts this weekend! I made a list of all the queer country stuff here.
I’m thrilled to announce I will be speaking at Country Radio Seminar in February 2024! CRS is the conference for mainstream country music execs and radio programmers. The people who actively decide not to play queer country artists on the radio? That’s where they hobnob. Marissa Moss wrote a chilling article about all the disgusting behavior that happens there and in other aspects of the radio side of things. It’s the belly of the best, but I hope I can advocate for queer country fans and artists while I’m there.
Steve Roberts reviews Joanna Sternberg's painful, triumphant I've Got Me
Brittany Ann Tranbaugh's self-titled EP makes yearning sound awesome
Jessye DeSilva sings the ever-loving stuffing out of "Boys of Summer" -- the single premiered on Rainbow Rodeo yesterday
Jess Nolan, whose album '93 just came out, discusses coming back to herself on this new album
Chicago singer Andrew Sa plumbs the depths of his new song "Dark Phoenix"
Click here to check out new queer country by Matt VanFossen, Bryan Ruby, My Sister My Brother, and more!
You can get all that and more here!