The Secret Emchy Society will bring their foot stompin’, heart breakin’ Americana music about good friends and hard times to the Big Apple tomorrow night.
The Oakland, Calif., queer country music collective will share their dark, sexy, boozy ballads, off-kilter anthems and cowboy songs at the Branded Saloon, 603 Vanderbilt Ave., in Brooklyn from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday.
Hosted by the Gay Ole Opry and Queer Country Quarterly, the show also will feature country music compadres Karen & the Sorrows and Viva.
“It’s New York, oh my God, that’s how I feel about it,” laughed Cindy Emch, frontwoman, guitarist and accordionist for The Secret Emchy Society, in late September during a phone call with The Stratton Setlist from the Bay area. “That’s the Michigan native playing New York, and that gets people excited.”
Emch will make her sole stop in New York City Saturday as part of a short fall tour, which also includes a Nov. 18 gig during the Queer Country Showcase at the Ivy Room in Albany, Calif., with Lavender Country and Velvetta.
“The Ivy Room started doing this great thing the third Sunday of every month where they do a 4-9 sort of country music showcase, and they have different local bands doing it,” Emch said. “I feel like there’s a lot of good Americana coming out of the Ivy Room right now.”
Dubbed as the “First Lady of Queer Country,” Emch leads a rotating old school country music collective that appeals to fans of June Carter Cash, Lydia Loveless, Neko Case, Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner. She’s been helping spearhead that flourishing music scene in San Francisco for more than a decade.
“I think there’s a big upswell of Americana-infused country music that’s almost hitting the mainstream – Margo Price, Shovels & Rope and Brandi Carlile,” said Emch, who grew up in Howell, Mich., graduated from Michigan State University and listened to Leonard Cohen, Prince and Billy Bragg. “They’re still making innovative country music, but it’s going way much more back to the roots, it’s not as produced. It’s much more honest and raw.”
With Emch at the helm, The Secret Emchy Society takes country music in a jovial, sad and humble direction on their 2017 full-length debut album, “The Stars Fell Shooting into Twangsville.” It echoes a variety of vintage styles ranging from rowdy honky-tonk to vulnerable murder ballads with broad swaths of zydeco, country and cabaret tossed in for good measure.
For the album, Emch collaborated with guitarist Tolan McNeil, vocalist and pianist Carolyn Mark and a host of other talented country musicians in Victoria, British Columbia to record the 12-song project at Lucky Mouse Studios and The Last Resort.
“It felt like lightning in a bottle the whole time, and it only took us four days to get the specific tracks done,” Emch said. “All those songs, every single one of them, mean so much to me that I’ve been touring that record for almost two years now.”
Nearly two years ago, Emch composed some of her favorite tracks, “Jagged Edges” and “Down to the River,” for “Twangsville.” Both songs are highly personal to Emch, who credits her wife with coining the “Jagged Edges” title as a frustrated response to Emch’s time away from home and the recent loss of several close friends in “Down to the River.”
“When I wrote ‘Jagged Edges,’ it was a funny day where all these things that were actually happening to me also felt like poetic moments that were totally good for lyrics,” she said. “‘Down to the River’ is a rollicking happy song when you hear it, but for me, it’s the joyful resistance to losing people. I feel like I really got to the meat of it when I was writing it, and it really turned out the way I wanted.”
As a follow-up to “Twangsville,” Emch is preparing to release a covers album in November featuring her own renditions of esteemed country and rock tracks by Mark, MacNeil, Tom Waits, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Jr. The covers album allows Emch to come full circle with her love of country music after hearing the likes of Willie Nelson and Crystal Gayle as a child and watching her mother play the accordion.
Emch also has a live album in works from a Seattle show she recorded at “The Crocodile” and has been writing songs from her next album of original material. For the upcoming album, she’s penning a set of two-step and honky-tonk-inspired tunes so fans can become part of that atmosphere at shows and in saloons.
“I want things to be enjoyable for an audience to be able to dance to in the way they would’ve in an old-fashioned sawdust-on-the-floor sort of bar out in the sticks,” she said. “You want honest and authentic songs, but you also need to cry into your beer or dance with somebody to get your mind off of things. You want to deliver art that helps people have a better moment so that we can share the song together.”
Show details: The Secret Emchy Society at Branded Saloon, 603 Vanderbilt Ave., in Brooklyn with Karen & The Sorrows and Viva. Tickets $8.