A little over 40 years have passed since the release of the debut self-titled record from Lavender Country, widely considered to be the first openly gay country album.
Now comes the reissue via Carrboro-based label Paradise of Bachelors, and the record ably stands the test of time with humorous lyrics, honest emotion and varied instrumentation.
Lavender Country opens with a jangling piano and upbeat lyrics on “Come Out Singing,” highly indicative of the rest of the record.
Playful and catchy harmonizing and the sporadic inclusions of guitar and fiddle make for a fantastic opener.
Patrick Haggerty’s raspy sincerity accentuates the album’s tone wonderfully. Combined with the raw emotion and silly wit, Haggerty remains a formidable presence on Lavender Country.
Somber odes like “Gypsy John” and “Georgie Pie” are a welcome change of pace. Particularly, “Gypsy John” creatively incorporates a fiddle and fuzzy vocals for a heartrending look at the title character.
In addition to challenging cultural norms associated with country, Lavender Country even steps away from traditional country stylistically, incorporating bluesy rock on “Waltzing Will Trilogy” and folk on “I Can’t Shake the Stranger Out of You.”
The only place the record falters is with the out of place and melancholic “To a Woman.” The song, while technically fine, uses a female vocalist. She has a nice voice, but the song as a whole just isn’t in sync with the rest of the album.
The record finishes strong with the poignant “Straight White Patterns” about the struggles and difficulties of being gay.
The powerful emotions exhibited in this track are a reminder of the country’s darker past.
While the lyrics might be too tongue-in-cheek at times, Lavender Country is a consistently fun and eye-opening listen. Ultimately, the album even stands out as more than a landmark record, fully able to survive simply on the merits of its music.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.