Secret Emchy Society – Gold Country/Country Gold (Broken Clover Records)
If Nick Cave took his murder ballads to the next logical conclusion and leaned into his country side, his music would likely sound more than a little like Secret Emchy Society’s tragically underrated catalogue. The latest Gold Country/Country Gold is more of the same from Cindy Emch, The First Lady of Queer Country, and that is hardly a bad thing.
The record opens on the early ‘80s Ned Sublette-penned song “Cowboys Are Frequently, Secretly Fond Of Each Other,” a song that she makes her own thanks to her distinct smokey vocals and her deft blending of Americana and a more Gothic-tinged folk/country (think Murder By Death or The Devil Makes Three). There is also more electric guitar on this record than any of her previous efforts making for a solid evolution in her sound.
Elsewhere she teams with queer country legend Paisley Fields and trans musician Mya Byrne on “I Wish I Was in Texas,” one of the album’s highlights. “I was right in the midst of song selection when Mya Byrne and Paisley Fields approached me about recording this new song they had written,” explained Emch recently. The other great standouts here are the honky tony cover “Rye Whiskey Baby” – destined to be a singalong at all of her shows moving forward – and the tear-in-my-beer tune “My Old Flame,” made popular by Jbird McLaughlin; The sad tale of heartache seems tailor made for Emch’s haunting voice.
Aside from plugging in throughout, there is not a lot that separates Gold Country/Country Gold from most of Emch’s last few records. But there also is no need to tweak a formula she has managed to perfect over the course of her career, bringing a wildly unique and much appreciated alternative voice to the world of Americana.