In America, country music is a part of our social fabric. Although it hasn’t been as LGBT friendly as we’d like, there’s no denying it surrounds us, especially those of us who live in more rural parts of the country. The only way the country community is going to be more accepting is if they realize that we, too, are fans of their kinds of storytelling styles. We’re here, we’re queer, we have broken hearts and dogs who ran away and pick up trucks, too!
OK, team: What kind of country does it for you?
Jill Guccini: “The Long Way Around” by The Dixie Chicks is MY JAM. The first verse is applicable to pretty much all queers, or anyone who grew up feeling different: “My friends from high school married their high school boyfriends. Moved into houses in the same zip codes where their parents lived. But I, I could never follow.” So good! Also, when it seemed like everyone else I knew were getting “grown up jobs” while I was sort of floundering around working in coffee shops and wanting to write and never be a grown up, this song STILL makes me feel that it’s totally fine to take the long way around.
In general, I feel like there’s a lot of great stuff in country that contrasts the really bad stuff, which is probably true in ALL musical genres. Like, for every bad country dude singing racist and overly patriotic anthems, there are women singing loud and proud about standing up for themselves and being themselves and just generally being awesome. I also think the gender parity in country is pretty equal—there are just as many powerful and successful women in it, if not more, than men. As opposed to, you know, ROCK, where female groups can be semi-successful (commercially, I mean) but it still feels like a struggle.
Grace Chu: My vote: The Dixie Chicks’ “I’m Not Ready to Make Nice,” which addressed the vicious haterade the group received after criticizing President Bush. The message can also be applied to many other people, such as mean girls, abusive bosses and horrible exes.
Heather Hogan: I’m a born and bred Georgia girl so country music is just a puzzle piece of my soul. I think I was like 12 years old before I even knew there was any other kind of music. I love a million things about it, but if I had to pick just one, it’s the way women go about dealing with their husbands’/boyfriends’ infidelity. Sometimes it’s like how Carrie Underwood does it, just smashing the crap out of his car with a baseball bat talking shit the whole time about how that other girl can’t hold her liquor. And sometimes it’s like how Garth Brooks tells it and she just shoots him in the face during a thunderstorm. And then sometimes it’s like the SHEdaisy song where the woman secretly knows her husband is cheating, right, but he doesn’t know she knows. so he promises her a date night to remember. He drives them up to this kissing rock that looks out over the city and she’s got the letter from his mistress in her pocket and she’s like, “Oh, this will be a night to remember, all right.” And then she drives them right the hell over the cliff! I mean, yeah, sometimes country music cheating is Reba and Dolly breaking your heart, but most of the time it’s just the most creative forms of revenge.
Bridget McManus: Now I must preface this comment by saying I do not support domestic violence or vandalism, but whenever I hear Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” I lose my mind. I begin singing along at the top of my lungs and start miming carving my initials (“BM”) into someone’s car seats.
Lucy Hallowell: When I was a wee one I had a tape of Mary Chapin Carpenter‘s album Come on, Come on and I listened to that thing all the time. I loved the whole album. I loved the song “Passionate Kisses” even though at the time I had as much experience with passionate kisses as I did with space travel. The one song that sticks with me is “The Hard Way.” Maybe my little middle school heart knew that the only way I was going to get wherever it was I was going was by tripping over my feet, saying the wrong damn thing, and making a thousand wrong moves. Whatever the reason, three notes in I can sing the whole damn thing.
Ali Davis: “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” because come on. It’s impossible not to love that song. Unless you’ve lost some sort of bet with the Prince of Darkness…
Kim Hoffman: I am a big sweet-toothed sucker for those classic rockabilly country stars like Dolly Parton, Brenda Lee, Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn. Brenda Lee’s Christmas hits? Classics! I’d say “Jolene” by Miss Dolly P. tops my list of favorite country songs because it’s not only the perfect song to sing along to on a lone cross-country road trip with all your windows down across the plains in Kansas, but it really never, ever gets tired.
Also, I must, must give a shout-out to Brandi Carlile. When we talked a couple years back, she cited some of those classic gals as inspiration. What I really. dig about her is she isn’t genre-specific—she bends across bluesy folk rock and back—and on a personal level, she’s the founder of an organization that means a lot to me, the Looking Out Foundation.
Punky Starshine: I grew up in an urban neighborhood just outside Boston, with a cement driveway as a “backyard” and a 5′ x 12′ patch of grass in front of my house the closest thing to nature I was exposed to on a regular basis. My parents both grew up in that same city, and before I moved to New York, none of us had ever lived outside our zip code. So it makes no sense that my first concert was Garth Brooks when I was nine years old, or that I knew every word to every song he played. But for some reason, my dad loved country music, and I grew to love it to. I think my favorite thing about it—still—is that often, each song is a story. Whether it’s Martina McBride crooning about a “Concrete Angel” or Carrie Underwood jamming about a girl letting her abusive father get “Blown Away” by tornadoes, sing me a story, and I’m totally on board.
Dana Piccoli: I love country music, especially new alt country. Have you heard the revelation that is Kacey Musgraves? Her song “Follow Your Arrow” is the coolest, queer inclusive country song ever. It’s so lovely in its nonchalance. Sara Watkins came out with a stellar album last year, and Nora Jane Struthers brings the story album to a new high with Carnival. Also, I bleed Dixie Chicks red, white and blue.
Trish Bendix: I’m a fan of more subtle country, like when it’s mixed with some other genres. Dusty Springfield is the perfect example of that to me. Brandi Carlile. Mount Moriah. And I will forever be a fan of Natalie Maines for being a bad ass country bitch. (Also see the Cry Baby soundtrack.)
Karman Kregloe: I’m a big fan of Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, but I also have an appreciation for the alt-country artists who mix country with rock and folk. Shelby Lynne, Lucinda Williams, Sheryl Crow, Neko Case and Gillian Welch are some of my favorites. And have you heard “Drinkin’ by Hank Williams‘ granddaughter Holly Williams? She’s one to watch!
Dorothy Snarker: “Crazy,” written by pre-bearded, pre-long-haired Willie Nelson and performed by Patsy Cline, remains one of the best all time songs in any genre. Period, full stop. I like the old school country ladies. Patsy, Loretta, Dolly because they were sassy before that was a thing many women aspired to be. I don’t mind some modern alt-country here and there. And the Dixie Chicks because we’re all still ashamed about our last president.
What kind of country music are you into? Are you a Taylor Swift kind of girl or into the classics?