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    AC Benus
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The Great Mirror of Same-Sex Love - Prose - 13. Wayne Studer "Lavender Country"

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• LAVENDER COUNTRY • “WALTZING WILL

TRILOGY” and “LAVENDER COUNTRY” •

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Songwriters: Patrick Haggerty (“Waltzing Will Trilogy”); Robert Hammerstrom — Patrick Haggerty (“Lavender Country)

Year of Release: 1973

Original Album: Lavender Country

Chart Performance: Not released as singles, and the album didn’t chart

Availability: Out of print (Gay Community Services of Seattle PC-160) […]

 

Those of my readers who, as a part of this cultural paradigm-shift, only recently discovered country music may be surprised to learn that a Gay country album was released as long ago as 1973. Lavender Country served multiple purposes as the name of a group, an album, and a song on that album, all of which were sponsored by Gay Community Social Services of Seattle. Singer-songwriter Patrick Haggerty led the three-man, one-woman band. Their album is an eye-opener.

We who have grown accustomed to the modern “young urban country” music of Garth Brooks, Wynonna Judd, Clint Black, and Roseanne Cash may find Lavender Country a jarring experience. Decidedly in the acoustic, folk-country mold, bearing a strong influence of bluegrass, it sounds dated and unsophisticated. It is. Haggerty’s high-pitched, Appalachian-accented vocals give new meaning to the term “nasal twang”—something that most nineties country stars are scrupulous to avoid. The instrumentation consists almost exclusively of acoustic guitars, fiddle, piano, and dobro. […] By current standards, even by the “countrypolitan” standards that were evolving in Nashville at the time it was recorded, Lavender Country sounds primitive. But at the same time it has a markedly authentic feel to it, though not without an eye to parody and camp. […]

Keeping the aforementioned reservations in mind, let me say that every song on Lavender Country has something to recommend it. I especially like the “Waltzing Will Trilogy,” an up-tempo dose of country boogie-woogie, the angry lyrics of which (about various injustices heaped upon gay people, ranging from electroshock torture to prison gang-rapes) remind us of a time when talk of revolution tripped off the tongues of disenchanted youth like one-liners at a comedy club.

 

Rise up and rip this goddamn system down

‘Cause there ain’t no hope till it tumbles to the ground!

 

If you feel like shouting, “Right on, brother,” go right ahead.

The album closer, “Lavender Country,” seems like something that might have played at the Grand Ol’ Opry in the late 1940s. Musically, that is. Lyrically, it’s another matter altogether.

 

You all come out, come out, dears

To Lavender Country

You all come out and make yourselves at home

It don’t matter here who you love or what you wear.

 

The effectiveness of this song, like the entire album, hinges upon the performers’ and the listeners’ awareness of the apparent contrast between the traditional, “down-home” sentiments usually associated with the musical style, and the very nontraditional sentiments articulated by the lyrics. Gayness becomes part of the natural landscape of the hills. In fact, it always has been. There have been Gay “hillbillies” just as surely as there are Gay urbanites; rural America is just as much home to [same-sex love] as the big cities. In essence, Lavender Country proclaims that the separation of Gay people from the countryside is at root a lie, only forced in the direction of truthfulness by a culture that has always driven its sexually “deviant” citizens toward urban areas to seek safety and solace in anonymity and numbers. But that’s not as it should be, and since not all Gay people have fled the rural heartland, that’s not as it is, either. Lavender Country asserts this fact, doing so with just the right balance of anger and humor.

I can’t leave Lavender Country without mentioning one other highlight: a rewrite of the Gene Autry standard “Back in the Saddle Again” as “Back in the Closet Again,” which satirizes the mindset that urges Gay people back toward greater discretion and secretiveness in times of increased oppression. Hilariously biting.

Unfortunately, since Lavender Country is now out of print, it now seems less a viable musical statement than an historic document. But what a document it is! It’s all but impossible to find now, except as I did by borrowing it from Winston Leyland who’s had it for almost twenty years. Hold on to your Gay artifacts, my friends. You never know when today’s commonalia will become tomorrow’s treasures. Of course, anybody into antiques already knows that.

—Wayne Studer,[i]

1994

 

 

 

Lavender Country full album:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nLwMyCnvH9iyQz6qybX2GKKyvyQiyDkXE

 

 

 

 

 


[i] “Lavender Country” Wayne Studer Rock on the Wild Side: Gay Male Images in Popular Music of the Rock Era (San Francisco 1994), ps. 130-132

https://searchworks.stanford.edu/view/5826643

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Copyright © 2021 AC Benus; All Rights Reserved.
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1 hour ago, Parker Owens said:

Now I need to unearth a copy of this record. It appears to be something we sorely need. 

The link is right there, Parker, under "1994" :yes: No need to hunt 

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20 hours ago, AC Benus said:

The link is right there, Parker, under "1994" :yes: No need to hunt 

Color me embarrassed. I should have figured that one out. But now I know what to look for when I peruse the dusty old stacks of used LP’s at yard and estate sales. 

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