Paisley Fields makes out and open country music | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Paisley Fields makes out and open country music


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The country-music world has been slow to embrace its queer community, so it’s been refreshing to see a new generation of queer country artists and songwriters—among them Brandi Carlile, Ty Herndon, and Shane McAnally, who frequently writes for Kacey Musgraves—live out and open lives in the spotlight over the past decade or so without their identities damaging their careers. The songs of New York singer-songwriter James Wilson, who performs as Paisley Fields, have some of the spirit of this new wave of contemporary country rock and pop, but their sound owes more to what legendary out-and-proud Seattle group Lavender Country did in the 1970s than to anything that’s going on now in Nashville. Wilson, who’s queer and nonbinary (and who uses he/him or she/her pronouns interchangeably), was raised in Iowa and moved to Brooklyn in his early adulthood, where he assembled an alt-country band called the Paisley Fields. Shortly after the release of 2015’s Oh These Urban Fences . . . (Red Butterfly), Wilson adopted the band’s name to refer to his own fully realized onstage persona. His latest album, Electric Park Ballroom, is titled after the banquet hall in Waterloo, Iowa, where he learned line dancing, and Ballroom’s songs have a certain boot-scooting exuberance and playfulness that wasn’t quite there on Paisley Fields’ earlier releases. Fields toured with Lavender Country last year, and the two acts later collaborated on the Ballroom track “Stay Away From My Man,” a spirited trad-country bounce in the vein of a Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty duet. Electric Park Ballroom probably won’t be embraced by the Nashville country-pop scene any time soon (the frisky “Ride Me Cowboy” is about exactly what you think), but it’s smart, fun music for folks who want to give new queer country a spin.   v

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