Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review: Country Music's Newest Star

By Michael Block

Picture it. A famed drag queen singing original country music. Sound far-fetched? It shouldn't! After taking the world by storm on season 7 of RuPaul's Drag Race, Trixie Mattel has returned to her folk roots and written an exceptional country album. Trixie Mattel brings her entire six song cycle, and a little bit more, to the Laurie Beechman Theatre in Two Birds.
photo by Michael Block
Celebrating the release of her new album of the same name, Two Birds is a comprehensive concert, perfectly structured, leaving you wanting more. While sitting in her un-air-conditioned apartment in Provincetown, Brian Firkus spent his free time with his guitar writing music. What transpired was a collection of songs about love, heartbreak, and returning home resulting in a toe-tapping, emotionally charged country album. Complete with a quartet of musicians, Trixie Mattel takes her sold out crowd on a journey through a genre far from the drag scene norm. Staying closer to concert than cabaret, Trixie lets the music do the talking. She gives just brief anecdotes prior to the songs, allowing the lyrical narratives to tell the story. The artistry that Firkus displays as a songwriter is masterful. You would assume modern country music is all about beer, girls, and trucks, but “Two Birds” goes beyond. Firkus honors the style, bringing a retrospective of country music in the six songs. There is sadness and sorrow in the numbers, some of which are juxtaposed to an upbeat song, yet it’s the emotional context that shines brightest. Though the music arc doesn’t follow the flow of the album, Trixie saves the best for the end of the night. When it comes to gut-wrenching ballads, “Know You All Over Again” is Nashville chart worthy. A song of moving on from love, the song originally premiered in her other show Ages 3 and Up. The lead single from the album, “Mama Don’t Make Me Put On That Dress Again” marries country with the drag persona. Yes this is a concert of a country album but Trixie Mattel still brings the drag, and two country Barbie looks, to the stage. The thirsty crowd begged for Drag Race shade and she delivered, reading some of her sisters.
If you haven’t listened to the entire album yet, you’re missing out. Two Birds is like listening to the album as Trixie gives you treat by bringing the whole "Two Birds" band with her, comprised of Brandon James Gwinn on percussion and backup vocals, Allison Guinn on autoharp, Jeff Koch on bass, and Joel Waggoner on violin. Drag is becoming more and more mainstream. Trixie Mattel has proven that she can cross into mainstream media with “Two Birds.” In the drag world, Trixie Mattel has catapulted to the top of the heap. Don’t be surprised if someone with an open mind invites her to perform at the CMAs, or any of the abundance of other country music award shows. She deserves it.