Led by the late, great Patrick Haggerty, Seattle-based Americana band Lavender Country was queer unity in musical form.

The group’s first (and until very recently, only) record was the eponymous Lavender Country. Released in 1973, this album is regularly cited as the first ever gay country album, and it’s got the music to back it up.

Songs like “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears” are immediately ear-catching. The explicit nature of both the language and the queer themes, coupled with Haggerty’s high-tenored twang, make for songs that grab the heart.

The song “Lavender Country” (by Lavender Country, off Lavender Country) paints a portrait of a utopian respite for LGBTQ folks of all kinds. The singer croons, “Come out, my dears to Lavender Country/Y’all come out and make yourselves to home/It don’t matter here who you love or what you wear/’Cause we don’t care who’s got what chromosomes.”

“I Can’t Shake the Stranger Out of You” stands out in its ability to measure melancholy and joy in hidden sexuality. The two interplay throughout, rather than acting as opposites. The singer invites the listener to “climb right on up into my manger” for a romp in the hay, while still lamenting the necessary covertness and distance in the connection.

“All your favorite fantasies will come to an end/And you’ll be waking up tomorrow needing a friend/’Cause I can’t shake the stranger out of you.”

This queer country landmark has come to have a lasting impact on the genre, with fresh folksy talents like Orville Peck and Trixie Mattel citing it as inspiration. The latter even collaborated with Haggerty on a beautiful “Stranger” duet back in 2020.

Listen to the original lovely, yet lonesome, “I Can’t Shake the Stranger Out of You”:

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