Mya Byrne – Rhinestone Tomboy
I recently had an online exchange with an artist who wondered if “queer” was an adjective necessary to a songwriter’s bio. I suggested that a characteristic like that, if the artist is open with that part of their life, helps with understanding the musician’s story and, therefore, his or her art. Mya Byrne is the type of artist I had in mind during this discussion. This queer trans woman has had a life-changing year already. She came up big in March’s Love Rising show in Nashville, then released a rollicking pro-drag, anti-hate tune with Paisley Fields, “Burn This Statehouse Down.” Next up – her new album, Rhinestone Tomboy, produced by Aaron Lee Tasjan. It’s nothing more complicated than a straightforward country album that addresses love, heartache, loss and self-discovery – the type of stuff we all deal with.
Byrne’s love of music dates back to old 45s and 8-tracks that found their way to her young ears, and that acquired twang is evident from Rhinestone Tomboy’s outset. “It Don’t Fade” is a mid tempo pleaser that finds Byrne trying to soothe future anxieties with past lessons – “Reminiscing on the old days, adjusting to the new ways/Thinking about the heartaches comin’ around” – bolstered by some nifty guitar work from Tasjan and Ellen Angelico.
There’s a lot of uptempo bounce throughout Rhinestone Tomboy, even on the sadder songs. “I’m Gonna Stop” promises to pump the brakes on romantic longing – “Gonna stop dreaming of a first kiss” – but, as Byrne (and everyone else with a steady diet of honky tonk blues) knows, even the prettiest songs won’t bury the feelings. “Come On” is a fuzzy rocker with stabs of guitar and envy – “I ain’t normally the type to get jealous/But now I’m burned up and tired.” And “Sweetheart of Mine” is an uptempo country chugger about Valentine’s Day doubts – “Fingers numb with February/There’s a lot of weight to carry/Ain’t nobody gonna be right all the time.”
And what would a true country album be without a good ol’ fashioned weeper? “Please Call Me Darlin’” is full of steel, harmonies, and the promise of besting a bad lover – “You don’t deserve what that man said/And though that love unraveled/I’m here with a new thread” (a DAMN good pick-up line). In these songs, Byrne states, without explicitly saying so, that her life, her wins and losses, and her goals, are really no different from anyone else’s. Should this be her responsibility? Probably not. But can it help a 50-something straight white cis guy like me identify – and empathize – with her? Absolutely. Give her a listen.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Autumn Sun” – bolstered by Tasjan’s organ line, this one’s a simple reminder that the past remains unchangeable – “Time to love what you have sown/Embrace what you’ve disowned.”
Rhinestone Tomboy was produced by Aaron Lee Tasjan, recorded and mixed by Gregory Lattimer and mastered by Amy Dragon. All songs written by Mya Byrne, with co-writing credits going to Karen Dahlstrom and Linda McRae. Additional musicians on the album include Tasjan (electric, acoustic and 12-string guitars, organ, harmony vocals), Ellen Angelico (electric, 12-string, baritone and steel guitars), Tommy Scifres (bass, fuzz bass, harmony vocals), Megan Coleman (drums, percussion) and Scott Stein (organ).
Go here to order Rhinestone Tomboy (out April 28): https://killrockstars.com/products/rhinestone-tomboy