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Sam Gleaves — Ain’t We Brothers

Sam Gleaves — Ain’t We Brothers (2015)

                Sam Gleaves — Ain’t We Brothers (2015)
★  Debut record of original songs produced by Cathy Fink, featuring guest musicians Janis Ian, Tim O’Brien, Laurie Lewis, Cathy Fink, Marcy Marxer, Missy Raines, Donavan Cain, Tyler Hughes, Pat McInerny, Russ Pahl, and Tim Crouch.
Location: Wythe County, southwest Virginia ~ Berea, Kentucky
Album release: 2015
Record Label: Community Music
Duration:     47:40
01. Working Shoes     3:34
02. Just Like Jordan (with Laurie Lewis)     4:05
03. Ain’t We Brothers (with Tim O’Brien)     3:55
04. Angel In The Ashes (with Janis Ian)     4:36
05. Come Into Your Own     4:03
06. The Golden Rule (with Cathy Fink)     3:46
07. Two Virginia Boys (with Donavan Cain)     3:39
08.Creek’s Froze Up — Callahan (with Cathy Fink)     2:54
09. Johnny     2:38
10. My Singing Bird     3:28
11. My Dixie Darlin’ (with Tyler Hughes)     3:25
12. Let Myself Believe (with Marcy Marxer)     3:37
13. If I Could Write A Song     4:00
By Kristin Cavoukian & Ivan Rosenberg / Published Nov 13, 2015 / Score: 9
★  Aside from the Russian Olympics, there are few places more difficult to be openly gay than the world of country music. It has remained a stubborn bastion of heterosexual masculinity, and the few openly gay artists to make their mark have tended to be women. In recent decades, most other genres — and their fan bases — have welcomed more diversity, and country/Americana music is long overdue to catch up with the times. Enter Sam Gleaves, an out songwriter and multi–instrumentalist from Appalachia.
★  Steeped in traditional mountain music, Gleaves is no stranger to the hard work, close–knit families, rural beauty and tragedy of coal–mining country. His songs range from original roots country to traditional ballads to old–time tunes. Gleaves’ songs walk through familiar country/folk imagery and storylines, while turning the tropes of each genre on their heads: the gay coal miner in “Ain’t We Brothers” is first and foremost a hard–working man; “The Golden Rule” at first seems like a classic gospel chestnut but develops into a country–gospel equal–rights anthem; and the beautifully sung a cappella ballad “Johnny” is especially powerful given the simple fact that, on this album, the balladeer and the object of his affection are both men — adding another layer to this traditional tale of forbidden love.
★  Politics aside, this is a pristine–sounding album with memorable melodies. Part of its success lies in the production. Sonically speaking, you could easily imagine some college dudes at a Texas tailgate party high–fiving along to Gleaves’ country songs, and the sound of his old–time tunes would be welcome on any back porch in the mountains. Gleaves is an accomplished musician, handling most of the banjo, guitar and fiddle duties on the album, and he sings in a warm and sincere country tenor. He is tastefully accompanied by industry heavyweights including Tim O’Brien, Marcy Marxer, Cathy Fink, Janis Ian and Laurie Lewis.
★  With these well–crafted songs, Gleaves challenges his straight listeners to question their assumptions about sexuality and gender roles as they play out in country and related music. In that regard, Ain’t We Brothers is a groundbreaking album.
★  http://exclaim.ca/
Label: http://communitymusic.com/
Website: http://www.samgleaves.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SamGleaves
★★★  You don’t need to know anything about Sam Gleaves’ backstory to hear the truth and power in “Working Shoes,” the lead–off track on Gleaves’ masterful Ain’t We Brothers? To judge from the powerful lineup on the album, I’m not the only one who recognizes Gleaves’ potential. But his backstory is important: Gleaves is openly gay. It’s literally the first item in his promo materials (“Openly Gay Singer in Appalachia”) and his songs. The title track (supported by Tim O’Brien) turns a number of roots tropes on its head:
First things first
I’m a blue collar man
With scars on my knuckles and dust on my hands
You probably didn’t know that I’ve got a man waiting on me at home
★★★  This is what I was saying in my No Depression article (and yeah, I’m gonna toot my horn on that one) — a song is only as powerful as the truth you put into it. Gleaves has the rare gift of making us feel as if we truly know him well through his songs. I get the sense that he is a kind but steadfast guy, one who speaks truth to power, whether that power is oppressing the LGBTQ community, blue collar workers, or the health and wellbeing of the people and environment connected to the mining industry. Overall, Gleaves brings beauty to these serious themes.
★★★  Even though marriage has been legalized across the nation, Ain’t We Brothers? highlights a fact that is all too easy for an urban queermo like myself to forget: gay men and women — and, not to say the least, trans* people — still face numerous challenges. It is unfortunate that in the year 2015, Gleaves’ choice to be proudly out is a courageous step in our corner of music. While I am always eager to promote LGBT artists on Adobe & Teardrops, the vast majority of these artists are women. We can’t pretend that the alt-country/roots world doesn’t replicate the broader oppression in our society. Thanks, Sam, for the gorgeous music. You have an incredible path ahead of you, and I hope it’ll inspire people from all stripes of the rainbow to pick up a banjo and share their voice.
★★★   http://nodepression.com/

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