Safety in Queer Numbers: Elton John, Sad Daddy and More

by Gregg Shapiro

Bay Area Reporter

Tuesday December 28, 2021

Elton John has a long history of playing well with others, beginning with the years he spent collaborating with Bernie Taupin on some of his biggest hit songs. "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," his 1976 duet with Kiki Dee, proved that he was comfortable sharing the mic with another singer. "The Lockdown Sessions" (Rocket/EMI/Interscope) features Sir Elton collaborating with some of the biggest names in music, queer and straight.

Highlights include the PNAU remix of "Cold Heart" with Dua Lipa, "Chosen Family" with Rina Sawayama, a cover of Pet Shop Boys' "It's A Sin" with Years & Years (Olly Alexander), "Simple Things" with Brandi Carlile, "One of Me" with Lil Nas X, "Stolen Car" with Stevie Nicks, and "Finish Line" with Stevie Wonder.


Out singer/songwriter Melissa Carper has been busy. She began 2021 with the release of her dazzling "Daddy's Country Gold" album, which displayed her distinctive vocal style as well as smoothly recalling the sounds of vintage classic country. In early 2022, Carper returns on "Way Up in the Hills" (www.saddaddyband.com), the marvelous third album by the country quartet "Sad Daddy" (consisting of Carper's girlfriend Rebecca Patek, Brian Martin, and Joe Sundell).

Hands down the best musical act from Arkansas (apologies to Bill Clinton and his sax), Sad Daddy gets the front-porch rocking chair boot stomping symphony started with the Carper tune "Arkansas Bound," which is both a declaration of destination and an invitation to follow. Martin's sizzling "Bacon" is tasty enough to appeal to even the most hardcore vegans among us. "Hangin' Them Clothes on the Line" sounds like sunshine and converts the drudgery of doing the laundry into a spiritual experience. The title cut offers a fascinating perspective on a personal response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


When you hear the pedal steel guitar on "Passenger," the opening number on Adult Mom's third album "Driver" (Epitaph), you might think they are traveling the same country roads as Sad Daddy. But "Wisconsin," the second track, makes it clear that Adult Mom's heart belongs to alternative pop. Led by genderqueer singer/songwriter Stevie Knipe, who wears their Cranberries influence on their sleeve, Adult Mom imbues even the most serious subjects with a pop sensibility. Examples of this include "Sober," "Breathing," "Dancing," "Checking Up," and the acoustic "Regret It."


Queer musical super-duo Bachelor — Melinda Duterte (aka Jay Som) and Ellen Kempner of Palehound — efficiently blend the pair's musical styles on the album "Doomin' Sun" (Polyvinyl). The sum total is an original set of tunes that sound like something fresh while allowing the collaborators to maintain their distinguished artist personalities. This comes through on the extraordinary "Sick of Spiraling," as well as "Stay in the Car," "Back of My Hand," as well as the bombast of "Anything At All," and the lush, acoustic title cut.


Spinning out on pink vinyl with black splatters, "Open Mouth, Open Heart" (Hopeless) by Destroy Boys cranks up the volume and vehemence to 11. True to its punk aesthetic, the queer trio doesn't shy away from incorporating meaningful messages into its music. Beginning with album opener "Locker Room Bully," and on through "Muzzle," "For What," "Secrets," "Escape," Destroy Boys makes strong statements, backed up by rock fury. B-side ballad "All This Love" stirs up a different kind of emotional response.


Haunted Like Human, a Nashville duo made up of lead vocalist/lyricist Dale Chapman (who identifies as queer) and multi-instrumentalist/ singer/songwriter Cody Clark, is back with its third studio album, "Tall Tales & Fables" (www.hauntedlikehuman.com). Born musical storytellers, HLH doesn't disappoint on songs such as "Run Devil Run," "Ohio," "Ghost Towns," "Georgia," "Whistling Tree," and "Afterlife."


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