Lavender Country come to town more than four decades after releasing the first openly gay country album | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Lavender Country come to town more than four decades after releasing the first openly gay country album 

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click to enlarge Lavender Country

Lavender Country

courtesy the artist

Lavender Country front man Patrick Haggerty is a true American rebel. Raised on a tenant dairy farm in Washington State, Haggerty grew up knee-deep in 40s and 50s country music—he spent his childhood listening to Canadian country radio, and when he was nine started playing tunes on a guitar his father gave him. When Haggerty began to publicly express his sexuality as a teenager, his father, a tough rural Catholic, taught him another important lesson—to be proud of who you are. His life since then has been colorful, and through it all he’s never tried to hide who he is. In the late 80s he cofounded Seattle’s chapter of the AIDS-advocacy organization ACT UP, and twice ran for public office under the pro-gay, multi­racial New Alliance party. These days Haggerty is best known for Lavender Country, which in 1973 released the first country album by openly gay musicians via the Gay Community Social Services of Seattle. The band only pressed 1,000 copies of the self-titled record, but when North Carolina archival label Paradise of Bachelors reissued it in 2014, Lavender Country’s history and importance became known across cultural barriers. On the album Haggerty proudly sings stories of his experience as a gay man in the language of the postwar country songs he grew up with—the music is bawdy, heartfelt, and steeped in the history of the land as much as anything that has come out of Nashville. The standout “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears” should be considered part of this country’s history of protest music, a sing-along rallying cry for those who have little but refuse to give up the things that make them happy. Following the 2014 reissue, Haggerty gathered a new lineup of Lavender Country that he plays with sporadically. Tonight’s Lavender Country is special not just because of its rarity, but because tomorrow Haggerty turns 73.   v


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