It was probably only a matter of time before two of the biggest queer names in Americana/country crossover collaborated, but we’re glad they did. Brandy Clark’s new, eponymous Warner Records album was produced by Grammy-winner Brandi Carlile who also plays on all but one of the 11 tracks. While Carlile’s presence is surely felt, the album is pure Clark. From her celebrated turn of phrase and distinctive sense of humor and perspective to her easily recognizable vocal style and delivery, the album is all hers. Unforgettable tunes include “Tell Her You Don’t Love Her” (on which she’s joined by Lucius), the gorgeous duet with Carlile on “Dear Insecurity,” “Best Ones,” “Ain’t Enough Rocks” (featuring Derek Trucks), “Northwest,” “Take Mine,” and “She Smoked in the House.”

Living up to its title, “Mookie’s Big Gay Mixtape” (Eight Eat Eight) by sexy AF Mike Maimone is required spinning for all Pride (and beyond) festivities. The 18-track set, complete with Maimone’s spoken “mixtape” interjections, is dedicated to the memory of his late husband Howard Bragman. The variety of the music, in classic mixtape style, is just one of the examples of Maimone’s versatility. Beginning with the arousing “Taste U,” sung in his trademark Tom Wait-esque growl, Maimone quickly brings things to a boil. The amazing “Unfollow” is a full-fledged club banger that deserves to be heard at Tea Dances far and wide. He takes us to New Orleans on “Stay” and “I Ain’t Goin’ Outside Today” and then fulfills his country music obligation on the rousing “I Wish I Didn’t Know You Anymore,” a duet with Linh Le. The album closes with Maimone’s piano and vocal rendition of “The Best,” which takes on even more meaning following the passing of Tina Turner who had a hit with the song in 1991. Maimone’s version strips away the bombastic period production for a more emotional reading, equally befitting of the song.

It makes sense that Softee (aka Nina Grollman) began her performing career as an actress. She certainly has a flair for the dramatic, and it  runs throughout the 10 songs on her new LP “Natural” (City Slang), available on dark green vinyl. This is particularly true of sensuous cuts such as “The Floor,” “Grief,” and the marvelous “Isn’t Enough.” Softee, a New York-based Minnesota transplant, brings some of that Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis influence and energy on songs including “Come Home,” “Molly,” “Red Light Green Light,” and “U + Me (WDYT).”

Bi singer/songwriter Betty Who became something of an “overnight sensation” when her 2012 song “Somebody Loves You” was used as the soundtrack for a choreographed, flash mob, gay wedding proposal video staged in a Home Depot. “Big!” (BMG), Betty Who’s fourth full-length studio album sounds like it’s geared towards the P!nk/Taylor Swift crowd and that will probably work in her favor. Opening with the title tune, an unapologetic anthem about being “larger than life,” the songs that follow, including “Blow Out My Candle,” “I Can Be Your Man,” “Weekend,” and “She Can Dance” give listeners their money’s worth of ‘80s-influenced pop as presented through a 21st-century lens. Betty Who is also comfortable with acoustic ballads, as she demonstrates on “Grown Ups Grow Apart.”

The increasingly popular family music (aka kindie rock) genre, which features superstars including Ralph Covert, Laurie Berkner, They Might Be Giants, and Dan Zanes, among others, continues to be inclusive not only of families with same gender parents, but also of queer musicians performing in the field. One such act is Charlie Faye & The Fanimals which has just released its eponymous debut album ( You might recognize Charlie Faye’s name from her earlier work with the aforementioned Zanes or perhaps from her all-female trio Charlie Faye & The Fayettes (along with Betty Soo and Akina Adderley). In fact, both Adderley and Soo can be heard on the Charlie Faye & The Fanimals album. As a queer parent herself, Faye makes a point of creating all-encompassing songs as you can clearly hear on standouts  “Me & My Family” and “Milo Wears a Tutu.”

Olivia Newton-John

The late Olivia Newton-John was a hopelessly devoted ally. From her Grammy Award-winning cover of queer fellow Aussie Peter Allen’s “I Honestly Love You” to the campiness of the “Physical” music video and her performances in the 1996 AIDS drama “It’s My Party” and 2000’s “Sordid Lives” (in which she played bisexual Bitsy Mae Harling alongside Leslie Jordan), Newton-John valued her LGBTQ+ following. The posthumously released double LP compilation “Just The Two of Us: The Duets Collection Volume One” (Primary Wave) assembles tracks from as far back as 1980 and as recently as just a couple of years ago. ONJ’s duet with Dolly Parton on “Jolene,” her final recording before she passed in 2022, is a throwback to her early years on the American charts when her music had more of a country bent. “Window In The Wall,” her 2021 duet with her daughter Chloe Lattanzi, is included here, as is her remake of “I Honestly Love You” with Jim Brickman. Other familiar duet partners include John Travolta, Cliff Richard, Barry Gibb, and Mariah Carey, to name a few.

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