I’ve been asked to warn you about some of the adult content on this week’s show.
I think I have done that now.
But, in all honesty, we deal in adult themes every week. What we don’t do is provide a platform to the dangerously unhinged Confederate flag-waving, homophobic, gun-lobby loving male country, covid denying mainstream. Believe me, there is a lot of that around, and no one really needs help trying to access that content
What is important is that this week’s special guest, Stephanie Lambring has songs on her excellent debut album which expose the hypocrisy of religion, the sexism of the music business and the shame and horror of conversion therapy. (something about to be outlawed in this country) I really can’t see any of these ideas being either terribly radical or controversial. If you’re a regular listener to the show I suspect you won’t either.
Like our last guest, Hailey Whitters, Stephanie has come face to face with the reality of Nashville as a ten year town. Signing up as a staff writer for a Music Row publisher she embarked on getting her songs to a wider audience but almost lost faith when a music business executive told her she would sell a lot more records if she lost an equivalent amount of weight. Stephanie did the only thing possible with this advice and left the music business to go its own way. For her part she travelled, went to bartending school and ended up pouring a few pints at Nashville airport and, well, she did a lot of thinking. When she did come back to songwriting she no longer wanted to be part of a hack, hit songwriting culture. She had stories only she could tell.
These stories are compulsive listening. They are all there on her remarkable debut album Autonomy. There’s the woman who keeps a Bible by her bed and a relationship with another woman in Indiana. It’s a terrifying tale of a character who is still constricted by the moral mores of Bible-belt America but missing the basic love which, one would hope, might also come with the territory. In Stephanie’s world that love has been twisted all out of shape and never more so on the song which comes half way through the album as a central pillar to the whole record. It’s here Stephanie’s songwriting arrow finds the bullseye. Quoting homophobic preachers and conversion therapists she asks the simple question , ‘Is that the joy of Jesus?’
The question hangs over the whole record which stands as a beautifully balanced testimony to Stephanie’s life. I defy you not be moved by these stories, and as someone who holds a deep Christian faith myself, nothing about it is offensive to me. On the contrary, I would simply suggest Stephanie to be a prophetic voice which should be heard in every church everywhere. In case you are wondering too, old Howard Harlan’s maxim that country music is about three chords and the truth has never been so perfectly illustrated as it has on the ten songs of Autonomy.
Stephanie is in the second hour of the show before which we have whole host of great music from Carly Pearce, William The Conqueror, Bright Eyes, Israel Nash and First Aid Kit. Listen out too for some classics from The Chicks and Merle Haggard. It’s all on this week’s Another Country this Tuesday Evening on BBC Radio Scotland (FM) or BBC Sounds whenever you like. Join me if you can.