EDIT: OOPS. I don't think this actually went out on Friday?? Well, I hope you had a great weekend!
I recently interviewed Jaimee Harris, and during that talk she called to my attention a profile of Shane McAnally in the NY Times magazine that I had not seen making the rounds. You may know Shane McAnally as one of the co-writers of the Kacey Musgraves song "Follow Your Arrow" or, irritatingly, Sam Hunt's "Body Like a Back Road."
Here's the thing: after decades of writing gender-neutral hits in Nashville, the guy is losing his voice. And he knows it's because country music is stifling him. As writer Carla Rotella puts it:
It’s not that the industry doesn’t know about the full range of human sexual behavior; rather, part of its brand has been to act as if it doesn’t want to know about large sections of that range.
I'd add that applies to BIPOC listeners, too.
Here's how McAnally describes his singing problem:
Yes, his success has taken him deep into the machinery of Nashville’s establishment, but the words he uses to describe his situation there — boxed-in, claustrophobic, smothered — are the same ones he uses to describe the panic that comes over him when he feels that his voice is going to fail and make him look foolish.
We've got a problem here!!!!!
McAnally is one of the few songwriters who can virtually print money but, of course, even in that position of power, country music won't love you back (to quote Karen Pittelman.) And even as white lady country singers are, perplexingly, embracing drag, there is still no embrace of actual queer country singers.
Adeem the Artist, as always, nails it:
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Music journalist Rick Quinn reviewed Terry Blade's haunting Ethos: Son of a Sharecropper. Rick is a writer living in Goodlettsville, TN interested in the intersections of music, pop culture, religion, and social justice. Rick can be found on Twitter @apophatic1. Want to see more reviews? Subscribe to the Rainbow Rodeo Patreon so we can feature more guest writers!
Terry Blade’s Ethos: Son of a Sharecropper is a statement album. The title encompasses the creative interplay of the universal and particular at work within the tracks. Expressing ethos aims at the animating spirit of a culture or community. These broad goals are rooted and given historical specificity by the album’s subtitle, alerting the listener that the African American experience in the American South deeply informs this work. As such, it is a bold work of creative intersectionality, a statement of both the artist’s rootedness and expressive freedom.
Unapologetically identifying as a black queer artist, Blade is an award-winning singer-songwriter from Washington, D.C., living in and working out of Chicago. He brings the full range of his experience and influences to his art. In Ethos: Son of a Sharecropper, Terry Blade wades into the rich currents of blues and roots Americana, tracing feeder streams of gospel, country, and bluegrass along the way.
The album’s own “ethos” is, in itself, a reparative work. The early 20th-century creation of the categories of “Country & Western” as opposed to “Rhythm & Blues” was a marketing division built on racist assumptions and an act of erasure of the profound contribution of black musical traditions in what is considered country music. Terry Blade deftly negotiates these streams within the tracks, shining a light on the false boundaries set up between genres.
Take the haunting refrain of “Rigor Mortis,” a gripping ode to the specter of mortality and the perspective it brings. Blade’s adroit finger-picking on the acoustic guitar evokes a galloping cadence reminiscent of the best gunslinger ballads, where the “pale rider” haunts the landscape of the journeyer. He also taps into the power of music to plumb the depths of human experience at the horizon of these limits. “In My House” channels the power of gospel piano in conversations with country guitar chords to give voice to the loneliness of a weary traveler before it abruptly shifts to the drum beat of a New Orleans funeral march. Powerful stuff, indeed.
The themes of loves longed for and lost permeate the album. The theme of identity and roots is the strength of this work. “In Grandma’s Kitchen” is a joyous, mandolin-propelled roots piece on the life-affirming context of the extended family in the black tradition. “Jimmy James” is a brooding ballad of one’s roles and the names we seek to leave behind. The album's heart is Blade’s ode to the “Rainbow Child.” His sonorous voice speaks hope to a young queer child to embrace the beauty within (“never seen such a fella/rocking that pink and yella”). Like the entire work, it is a profound recovery of resilient hope within a context often hostile to the full spectrum of the rainbow.
The album invites careful, repeated listens to enter into its depths fully, and Terry Blade is, without a doubt, an artist to watch on the horizon.
Here are all of the queer country album releases this month! Let me know if I should add something to the list!
3/1 — Tina and Her Pony
3/10 — Brian Falduto
3/24 — Boys Club For Girls
Autumn Sky Hall/Otto is making a "queer as shit Americana" album. Help her!!!
Country artists might have be ineffective allies to drag queens and trans people, but these MMA bros in West Virginia are putting their fists where other people's mouths are
What do you mean you don't want this $2 comic about butch cowgirls and gender rolemodels???
You can sign up to table at the Punk Island zine fair, or volunteer for the Brooklyn-based festival. There will be quite a few Americana and folk musicians there. I don’t think a date has been announced.
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
Did you know that artists at SXSW get paid in virtual pennies and still have to buy a festival pass if they want to see someone else’s show? That sucks! Demand fair pay for SXSW
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
Queer songwriting circle https://www.eliconley.com/group-classes.html#circle
This month’s episode of Rainbow Rodeo is a check-in on all of the fantastic queer country that's come out so far -- plus a hint of what's to come. Featuring Sunny War, John-Allison Weiss, Jaimee Harris, Izzy Heltai, and more!
Tell your friends about the podcast!
4/8 -- Tami Hart and Paisley Fields are hosting another queer country night at the Parkside Lounge in New York City! They got both back rooms this time, so it shouldn't be as much of a fire hazard.
4/15 & 16 — The High Water Festival in Savannah, GA will feature a number of queer artists like Rainbow Kitten Surprise, SG Goodman, Orville Peck, Ezra Furman, and the Black Opry. Who’s buying a ticket for me?
4/21 — There will be a virtual and in-person celebration of the life of Patrick Haggerty. The in-person gathering will be in Bremerton, WA. See the post for details about submitting notes, etc. to his family.
6/23 - 25: Melissa Carper, Alisa Amador, Maya deVitry, The Faux Paws, and Amy Martin are playing the Red Wing Roots Music Festival in Mount Solon, Virginia
All kinds of price points to advertise on the podcast, newsletter, or zine. (Deadline for the zine is 3/31!) Click here and help support the queer country community!
Updated every week!
Thanks to Catie Pearl-Hartling for making a parallel list on Apple Music!
Thanks to Heike Hausmann for making a parallel list on Tidal!
Eli Conley is hosting an LGBTQ+ songwriter circle online! Join in!
Are you on Mastodon or another part of the Fediverse? Get your music on RadioFreeFedi!
Submit your music and events to The Q LGBTQ Creative Network
This Twitter thread has a whole list of places to find jobs in the music industry
And here’s a list of resources for “women” entering the music industry — presumably they also encourage nonbinary participants
Submit your profile to the Country Everywhere which seeks to unite BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and disabled artists and professionals
Sign up to the Black Opry Revue’s interest form!
Check out the weekly Queerfolk Fest show in Nashville
Twitter kind of sucks right now and can you really make friends on Instagram? Join us on the Rainbow Rodeo Discord! We've been talking sci fi, tour lineups, press contacts, allyship, gender, and more! Just respond to this e-mail to get the link!