As the year (thankfully) comes to a close, we reflect on the strength, grit and willpower that slowly got us through. Together, we relied on new soothing, hopeful tracks that provided a welcome escape from the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation, political rifts, grief and loss.
Uplifting, rewarding bits of indie folk, country-pop, folk rock, psych rock, shiny lo-fi soul, reggae, dreamy pop, chill hip-hop and experimental art rock demonstrate the courageous creative and emotional spirit we all share heading into 2021.
For Joss Jaffe, today’s global political climate runs rampant with false promises.
The Oakland, California world music singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist shares this widely held notion in his latest reggae-infused single, “Promises,” with Mykal Rose.
“Ultimately, I think politics is always divisive. Peter Tosh would call it ‘politricks.’ But yes, this period in time has been especially unprecedented. Although I do not call out Trump by name in this song and take the approach of an old-school reggae song, where we speak in metaphors and allegory stories, clearly it references the cascade of lies and falsehoods that seem to never end,” Jaffe said.
“However, yes, the song also speaks to the timeless, and sadly, seemingly ever relevant problems this poor type of leadership brings, and it’s not just limited to the U.S.”
Throughout “Promises,” Jaffe and Rose quickly unstitch the increasing fallacies Trump and other controversial political figures continually weave into society’s fraying fabric. Vibrant horns, thumping drums, bouncy bass, breezy synths, spirited organ and peppy electric guitar seamlessly undo each tumultuous thread.
Rose eagerly chants, “Promises are a comfort to a fool/All they wanna give is promises/We know the golden rule/Yet they wanna use you like a footstool.” In response, Jaffe soulfully sings, “Step on you to reach that goal/And cast you aside when you played your role/Promises that keep on saying/But then you look at them and see they’d never change.”
“My vision for this song is something that’s uplifting and triumphant over adversity. Something that rises above the current moment, however difficult it is, and gets back in touch with the universal consciousness,” Jaffe said.
With honest, reflective lyrics and a hypnotic reggae sway, Jaffe and Rose triumph with “Promises” as a fitting theme song for our turbulent political and social times. The track serves as the duo’s second dynamic collaboration since the divine, glistening “Elohim” with Shimshai in 2015 for Jaffe’s Dub Mantra Sangha album.
“Mykal Rose has always been one of my longtime heroes of reggae music. We have a mutual friend named Siah who is his guitar player and produces some of his songs. Mykal is a true legend; rocksteady in the studio and always pushing everyone to capture their best possible take. It was a true blessing,” Jaffe said.
During the show, The Secret Emchy Society will provide “hymnals,” or booklets with lyrics, to audience members so they can sing along to songs from “Mark’s Yard,” a new covers album the band released in December.
“This room has wonderful acoustics, and we’re actually not going to amplify, but we’re definitely going to do most of the album,” said Cindy Emch, frontwoman, guitarist and accordionist for The Secret Emchy Society. “This album was made with the intention of serving up a community experience. There will be swaying, stomping, laughter, dorkery and stories about songs that will surely go off on tangents.”
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 sharing her dark, sexy, boozy ballads, off-kilter anthems and cowboy songs with the Bay area queer country music scene for more than a decade.
As a follow-up to 2017’s “The Stars Fell Shooting into Twangsville,” Emch’s latest release, “Mark’s Yard,” includes her own renditions of esteemed country classics from Rhubarb Whiskey, Hank Williams Jr., Tom Waits, Tolan McNeil, Johnny Cash, Carolyn Mark and more.
The 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.
For the album, Emch teamed up with Hans Winold (upright bass, harmonica), Michele Kappel (percussion), Mya Byrne (lap steel, mandolin), Nick Foley (backing lead guitar) and Deleina Mae (backing electric bass) and recorded it over three hours one August Sunday night in her neighbor’s backyard.
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.