10 queer and trans country artists for your big gay twangy summer playlist

From Canadian breakout Robert Adam to trans industry vet Namoli Brennet 

It’s a great time to be a queer country music fan. Whether you’re a new devotee to Lil Nas X, Trixie Mattel and Orville Peck, or a longtime listener of sparkly rhinestone icons such as Dolly Parton, Lavender Country and Tomson Highway, big gay twangy summer is upon us.

Alberta’s Robert Adam has line-danced to the forefront of a new crop of queer country stars, earning a spot in the finals of Sirius XM’s Top Country competition. To help shed light on his new single “Moonlight Magic,” he shared some juicy details behind the song’s lyrics with Xtra

“Back in my past when my family and my surrounding rural town looked down on me for my sexuality, I used to feel alive at night,” Adam explains. “When everyone else was asleep, there was no expectation of who or what I had to be.

“I would often meet other guys on dates in farmers’ fields or by lakes in the surrounding area,” he continues. “It was so thrilling and exhilarating because it was the start of me connecting with my true self, which would eventually come out to play even in the daytime. 

“This song is for anyone who needs to take off the mask or hat they wear during the day, and let their wild hearts run wild!” 

Listen to Adam’s new single, “Moonlight Magic,” below, and read on for nine more queer country recommendations, from legends like Cidny Bullens and Blackberri to trans industry vets Namoli Brennet and Ryan Cassata.

Robert Adam

Credit: Brandynn L.P. Photography

Born in the small town of Bonnyville, Alberta (but now based in Calgary), Robert Adam has earned the nickname “Dream Angel Cowboy.” Delivering deeply personal lyrics with hushed and honeyed vocals, the redheaded stranger has turned himself into a sparkly rhinestone work of art. 

Cassandra Lewis

Credit: cassandralewismusic.com

Cassandra Lewis has a voice as big as Dolly, an octave range as vast as Mariah and a classic sound inspired by Patsy Cline. Sharing her larger-than-life stories with wit and grace, the openly queer musician who once lived in her car and sold weed to survive has now signed to Elektra Records (Blondie’s and the Doors’ label back in the day). 

 

Allison Russell

Credit: Dana Trippe

Montreal-born Grammy winner Allison Russell grounds her songs in soulful expressions of queer joy, Black liberation and survivors’ transcendence. Alongside her solo career, Russell works with the Rainbow Coalition Band, an ensemble of queer POC and other historically marginalized musicians.

Mya Byrne

Credit: myabyrne.com

Beginning as the host of a popular New York open mic night, Mya Byrne has earned a reputation for her uniquely laid-back take on Americana. In the 10 years since she announced her transition, Byrne signed to beloved indie label Kill Rock Stars. On her latest album, Rhinestone Tomboy, she plays mandolin, pedal steel and other twangy instruments.

D’orjay the Singing Shaman 

Credit: dorjay.ca

D’orjay first grabbed the microphone at 35, perking up the world’s ears with her blazing debut single, “New Kind of Outlaw.” Colouring outside of genre lines with vibrant shades of Blackness and queerness, D’orjay’s powerful pipes have been heard everywhere from Proud Radio Country to Hockey Night in Canada. Not bad for a gal from rural Alberta!

Namoli Brennet

Credit: namolibrennet.com

Trans country singer Namoli Brennet has released 13 albums since her 2002 debut, Boy in a Dress. When she’s not busy recording for her own label, Flaming Dame Records, Brennet can likely be found performing on stages around the world. Her music was also featured prominently in the 2009 queer bullying documentary, Out in the Silence.

Ryan Cassata

Credit: ryancassata.com

Over a decade ago, Ryan Cassata made waves on national television by coming out as a trans teen on Larry King Live (much to his mom’s chagrin). Cassata’s most recent recordings are punk as folk, but if you go back a few years, his warm, melodic take on country music should appeal to fans of the classic Nashville sound.

Blackberri

Credit: Courtesy of the artist

Before his death in 2021 at the age of 76, Charles Timothy Ashmore (aka Blackberri) blessed the world with his retro country-blues. Focusing on issues such as civil rights, pollution and eating the rich, Blackberri’s 1981 album Finally found him joined by a gaggle of fellow musicians from his community. Lavender Country’s Patrick Haggerty has even cited Blackberri as a formative influence.

Severed Fingers

Credit: Courtesy of the artist

From their home in Durham, North Carolina, Jesse Dillon leads the gritty country-folk band Severed Fingers. While they haven’t released any new music since 2015, the band’s X-Files-referencing album Trust No One should appeal to fans of Laura Jane Grace and Against Me!

Cidny Bullens

Credit: Travis Commeau

Cidny Bullens first found the limelight as a backup singer for Elton John and Rod Stewart, contributed to the Grease soundtrack and launched his career as a major label solo artist in the 1970s. Bullens came out publicly as trans in 2012 before touring with his solo stage show, Somewhere Between: Not an Ordinary Life. Few titles are a larger understatement.

Jesse Locke

Jesse Locke (he/him) is a writer and musician based in the traditional, unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, also known as Vancouver. He has contributed to outlets such as Pitchfork, Bandcamp Daily, SPIN, The Wire, CBC Music, Xtra, Musicworks and Aquarium Drunkard. Jesse is the co-founder of the We Are Time record label, and has played drums with the bands Tough Age, Big Rig and CHANDRA. Follow him on social media!

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