Posted in On Air

Rachel Baiman Finds Sharp and Emotional Stories in “Common Nation of Sorrow”

On her standout song “She Don’t Know What To Sing About Anymore,” Rachel Baiman presents a bright musical character overcome by the weight of the world around her. It weaves autobiographical details into a story with a volcanic apocalypse that captures all the anxiety of the post-pandemic world.

“It came to me in a dream, the idea of the volcanoes, so I’m not sure why that happened but I can interpret it to mean that everything is going on at once,” Baiman said. “That was the summer when there were huge protests regarding racial justice and police shootings and it felt a little apocalyptic with the pandemic. But a lot of the disillusionment also comes with the current state of trying to be an independent artist.”

Unlike the character in her song, Baiman certainly seems to know how to write songs under the weight of a depressing world. Her new album “Common Nation of Sorrow” is another masterclass in political songwriting, a topic Baiman teaches to other songwriters.

“I’m always coming back in in my music stories of how people end up with hateful beliefs or stories of how people are affected by these systems,” Baiman said. “I teach political songwriting classes and a lot of times people get frustrated with me because I think they come to the class wanting to use it as a place to rant about their beliefs and what I’m trying to teach is how to convey something emotionally.” 

“Some Strange Notion,” effectively the title track, describes a world not unlike ours in which people have begun to notice the inequities around them and want to make a change.

“The notion that I’m trying to present is the shared experience of hardship,” Baiman said. “The idea that if you’re just sitting there alone and things are a little bit too hard, you don’t feel like there’s anything you can do with that feeling. But once you realize that everyone around you is feeling the same, then not only do you feel seen and more comforted, there’s also something to be gained from that. If everyone’s going through this together, then that’s an opportunity to make change.”

Baiman admits that perhaps we aren’t there yet as culture wars and tribal politics have distracted many people from realizing that the folks with the power and motivation to oppose their financial interests are the ones holding all the wealth.

“There hasn’t been an across the aisle realization of the way the majority of us are being taken advantage of economically. That feeds into everything. It feeds into anger and racism and misogyny. If people felt that they had opportunity and could build the life they wanted, I don’t think they would need to spend as much time on anger. 

Some of Baiman’s sharpest political songwriting comes on “Self-Made Man,” which effectively asks how many people need to suffer for one to become extremely successful. In the song, Baiman takes aim at the type of woman who’d marry a man who’s proven to be selfish and unconcerned with others. In reality, she sees a slightly more complicated picture.

“I don’t know that it would be as conscious,” Baiman explained. “It would be more that the way that the system are set up, if you have some money it would be very easy to make money. If you have no money, you’re constantly in debt and it’s really hard to catch up. So I think there’s such a thing as a well-meaning billionaire but there’s not a such thing as a system that maintains any fairness, at least in this country. 

One of the later songs on the album captures Baiman’s connection with music and, by extension, the relationship some of her fans have with her best work. Among the lyrics of “Old Songs Never Die” are “you can’t claim and you can’t own/ these songs that live inside our soul/let the money man try to gauge its worth.” Much like the music Baiman makes and sings about, it’s going to take an appeal to higher values to overcome the rules written by the men with money.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Rachel Baiman and the songs we discussed, starting with “She Don’t Know What To Sing About Anymore,” which certainly resonated with some of the darker periods of my life. The interview begins afterward. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in On Air

Jenna Torres Finds Heaven & Hurt in Love and Freedom in Song

Jenna Torres crafted an excellent album in Heaven & Hurt with most of the songs falling pretty directly into one of those two categories. The first track, “Godspeed” tells the story of someone letting go of a love when she realizes it’s not meant to last. It’s definitely a song of hurt, but it’s more remarkable for the maturity displayed through the pain.

“That particular song came from a place of wanting so much to take the higher road,” Torres explained. “It’s so easy to feel that we own each other and that if you don’t get what you want that somehow things aren’t right. But at the end of the day I do think it’s important to release and to accept the way things are.”

Torres displays more maturity in hurt in songs like “Your Time to Fly,” a farewell to an ailing loved one, and “Just A Mountain,” a song about persisting in the face of very real struggles.

“I think it’s very important to acknowledge when a mountain is large,” Torres said. “Having lived as long as I have I’ve walked over many mountains. I’ve managed to get over many mountains myself and I’ve been with people whose mountains were so great that even as we attempt to ascend we know we may never get to the top. But what I’m trying to say in the song is that no matter how great the mountain, you still have to climb it.”

The heaven in this album comes in many forms. Prayers Up offers a literal moment of holiness in an otherwise secular collection of songs. But Torres also explores a less pure form of heaven on songs like “Tell Me In Kisses” and “Tennessee Heat.” In both songs Torres is direct about her wants and needs and tastefully sensual. It’s a mindset that she actually finds easier to express on stage than in real life.

“I say things and do things in song that I may not do in person,” Torres admitted. “Song is freedom for me. It’s the place I go to let it all hang out and be more easily seen. To be a fully empowered woman who speaks about her sensuality and desire openly is something I want for myself and all women, frankly.”

The songs play out a bit like fantasies, or at least aspirations.

“It comes very naturally,” Torres said. “Being a person who has a pretty vivid imagination and can direct a whole movie in my head about how I want things to go, I’m pretty good at conjuring up an ideal world in my mind.”

“Talk to the Rain” is a song that asks someone to step into one of those roles that Torres might cast in her imaginary movies: someone who’ll support her through the hard times.

“Being supportive looks to me like good listening,” Torres said. “It’s not so much about giving advice and telling people what they should do. But what a person should do is really up to them. Encouragement, energy, faith, seeing the beauty in someone. I’ve been very fortunate to have several people meet me where I am. Meet someone where they’re at and try to lift them from there.”

As much fun as a country album with typical tales of self-destruction and dramatic breakups can be, “Heaven & Hurt” is a refreshingly mature take on many of those same topics. Even the love songs show that Torres is a woman who knows what she wants and knows what she needs to do. And it’s absolutely to her credit that she can display these traits without sounding preachy about it. And while Torres likes to avoid the word ‘should,’ I have absolutely no problem saying that you should give this album a listen.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Jenna Torres and the songs we discussed, starting with Godspeed, which handles saying goodbye a lot better than I could. The interview begins afterward. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in On Air

Boys Club For Girls Harmonize Their Way To Impactful Debut

Amie Miriello and Vanessa Olivarez are extraordinary country-rock harmonizers with lyrics and a sound that show off a bit of edge and a lot of heart, a combination that makes their songs feel like honest thoughts shared by a close friend. It’s what makes Boys Club For Girls so worth joining. 

The two spoke with me via zoom for an appearance on WUSB and often had me laughing. Olivarez went with large pink sunglasses and even larger and brighter pink earings while Miriello settled for a black zip-up hoodie. They’d often answer questions at the same time, sometimes differently. Miriello cursed just about as freely as she did on the album, recounting that they almost played their uncensored songs during a live radio performance on a different station. She described their relationship as like they siblings, though noted there’s sometimes confusion.

“People sometimes think that we’re together because when we sing live, I’d say 75% of the time we sing to each other,” Miriello explained. 

“There’s an intimacy about singing with each other and to each other that people sometimes translate as being romantic, but I think we are in love with the songs,” Olivarez added.

The songs range from mournful country to edgy roots rock and from introspective to funny. “The Weatherman,” the album’s most popular single, talks about unpredictable emotional turbulence by comparing it to the weather in Tennessee, which Miriello described as a “complete shit show.” 

“It’s like two seasons in a day here,” Olivarez said. “It’ll be warm and beautiful in the day and it hits night time and the sun goes down and it’s like winter. We really tried to take that idea and turn it into a song about how it’s difficult to control these emotions.”

Closest traces the mindset of someone attempting to engage in a dysfunctional relationship on a piano driven ballad that sounds sufficiently melodramatic for the topic being discussed.

“When I was younger, I didn’t think that a relationship was intense enough and the love wasn’t deep enough unless there was chaos,” Miriello admitted. “I think a lot of people feel like if it feels normal or it feels easy then it can’t be a big enough love. Love does not have to be chaos. It’s always going to be hard, but you don’t have to fight and make up to make things exciting.” 

“Eventually you just settle into a nice, slow kind of love,” Olivarez added. “I think even if you don’t think that’s what you want it’s what everybody wants.”

“Not Just Yet” showcases the duo’s typically great harmonies while also showing how they’re not always perfectly in sync. When I asked if understanding the idea behind the song, that you’ll eventually be okay after a break up, made the process any easier, the two disagreed. Miriello quickly said no, but Olivarez gave a full answer first. 

“It might feel black for a while like you’re never going to see the other side, but eventually there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and I think it’s important to remember that,” she said.

Miriello disagreed. “You know that you’ll be okay at some point, but I don’t think it makes it any better because it feels endless when you’re in it.” 

The two did harmonize on one point though. 

“Some people make it really easy for you to not grieve,” Olivarez said. Miriello laughed and nodded. I couldn’t help laughing along as well. 

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Amie and Vanessa and the songs we discussed, starting with Not Just Yet, which is the mid tempo song of the three I play. The interview begins afterward. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in Uncategorized

Benjamin Dakota Rogers Filters Old Folk Stories Through TikTok on Paint Horse

Benjamin Dakota Rogers lives in a barn apartment on his family’s farm in small town Canada. It’s right nearby his brother’s blacksmith studio. His style of music and the era many of his lyrics take place in sound like they’d be right at home in a barn near a blacksmith. That’s part of why I was shocked to learn that Rogers chose most of the tracks for his album based on how well they did on TikTok. 

“A lot of the songs on the record, as weird as this sounds, I whittled down on TikTok,” said Rogers. “I did this experiment last year where I posted every day on TikTok and it’s been really great for my career and really informative on writing songs. If that one went viral, people want to hear that one or people are connecting with that.”

That’s how he opted to include a cover of “Blackjack County Chain” on his album, a song that was once banned from the radio out of fear that it would encourage violence against police. It’s a well-chosen cover because it fits the theme and era the album strives for and shows just how closely Rogers’ originals resemble folk music of old.

By and large, TikTok got it right. Rogers’ voice sounds like a slightly unhinged Amos Lee and the stories populating his album are often violent, dark, and dramatic. It’s a real throwback to a time when mainstream folk music sounded a lot more like this.

“I think the first folk songs were written in more violent times, so people were writing what they knew,” Rogers said. “I think now people who write those things are influenced by those stories. I think violent stories are easily contained within a three minute song.”

“Charlie Boy” is one of the strongest examples. Charlie murders a groom on his wedding day after being lied to by his bride and despite those around him trying to calm his temper. It’s tragic to see what a little manipulation does to what seems like a relatively simple man. It’s also another example of how Rogers places only men in the crosshairs of his characters.

“The conflict in the stories, especially for the era that I’m writing in, works better with two guys fighting,” Rogers explained, noting that many of his stories take place between 1850 and 1920.

For all the old-time energy Paint Horse gives off, and for all that TikTok contributed to the selection of the music, it’s one song that breaks both those rules that comes out sounding the strongest. “Arlo” tells the story of a widowed truck driver doing his best to stay afloat after his farm went under. The ‘cancerous’ growth of suburban development is something Rogers can relate to.

“I spend a lot of night outside and I was noticing that you could see the glow from lights from subdivisions coming up over the trees on our property,” Rogers said of his farm.

Though TikTok crowds didn’t go wild for the sad tale, Rogers included it because of the way he felt playing it.

“It’s the only song that didn’t have TikTok success, but I think that people who aren’t on TikTok might connect with it,” Rogers said, explaining that songs like Arlo are easier to play live because he feels them in his gut.

I’d have to agree with his gut. Arlo may not fit perfectly with the rest of the album, but a top notch sad song that hopelessly rages against the way things have become is timeless in a way few other songs can be.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Benjamin Dakota Rogers and the songs we discussed, starting with Charlie Boy, which leads to an inevitable tragic ending. The interview begins afterward. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in On Air

Jaimee Harris Escapes Generational Pain Through Raw Honesty in Boomerang Town

Jaimee Harris named her sophomore album Boomerang Town after the town she grew up in. It seemed to have a certain gravitation effect on those who tried to leave and certainly didn’t impress Harris.

“It felt to me like a lot of folks who tried to leave my hometown ended up coming back, and ended up coming back pretty quickly,” she explained. “It’s not small enough to be a small town with small town charm and it’s not big enough to be a city. I think it’s not only common that you might feel stuck, but I think it’s common particularly in areas like this where the Evangelical Christian foot is on your face, that although the concept should be redemption that it’s harder to overcome that.”

The album Harris created is superb and weighty, tackling subjects like suicide, alcoholism, grief, and religion. It’s a reflection of not only her own struggles but the stories of folks from her boomerang town that she was so expertly able to inhabit. The title track is told from the perspective of a friend’s older brother who impregnated his girlfriend at a young age. Another is from the point of view of a mother who lost her young son to a bullet. 

Harris’ own story and that of her family is woven into the album. Though she managed to leave her hometown in her pursuit of music, a family history of suicide and alcoholism inhabits “The Fair and Dark Haired Lad.” The song captures at least three generations of pain, from her grandfather down to her.

“I’ve been in recovery for a little over nine years now, so my understanding of alcoholism is constantly changing,” Harris said. “I was able to see what my grandfather was dealing with and what other people in my family were up against. I’ve been privileged to have less of it, though my biology and mental health still goes there.”

Other standouts on the album include the comforting “Love is Gonna Come Again,” the boozy and hazy “Sam’s” and the deconstructionist “On the Surface.” But no song feels quite as raw as “How Could You Be Gone,” a portrait of grief Harris wrote with her partner Mary Gauthier, who happens to be a fantastic musician and songwriter in her own right. It describes what Harris experienced after losing her mentor Jimmy LaFave.

“Some days I can think about Jimmy and talk about Jimmy and I can hear him sing and I can laugh,” Harris said. “And other days someone can barely mention his name and I start bursting out crying, and her passed away in 2017. There’s several days when I want to call him and tell him that he died. There are all these moments when I physically pick up my phone and try to call him.” 

Throughout the album, the realness and power of Harris’ emotions come through on her well-constructed songs. Longer tracks feel epic in scope rather than drawn out and even the more hopeful tracks feel genuine and possible. Harris seems destined to become one of Americana’s greats after an album like this. 

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Jaimee Harris and the songs we discussed, starting with the epic Boomerang Town, which serves as the title track. The interview begins afterward. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in On Air

Jill Barber Celebrates the “Homemaker” and the Beauty in Family Life

Jill Barber is an acclaimed musician and songwriter who has traveled the world sharing her thoughts. Yet she still finds the time to act as a homemaker to her children, husband, parents, and friends. Though her mother was a homemaker in the traditional sense of the word, Barber wrote “Homemaker” to celebrate all the people who care for others. 

“What I want to do is celebrate the work that goes unseen, the invisible work that you’re not getting paid for but is deeply valuable for society,” Barber said.

The title track “Homemaker” is tender and deeply empathetic. Barber realizes how difficult it is to do the work involved in running a home, whether that means doing the dishes or instilling values in her children. She’s gained a new appreciation of what her mother did for her.

“As a kid, I thought of my dad as the one who worked and my mom was just at home,” Barber said. “But my mom did all the heavy lifting raising us two kids.” 

Homemaker is a job that Barber had to on a more full-time basis during the pandemic with her concerts cancelled and her children constantly at home.  It wasn’t easy.

“There were days when I would scream into a pillow at the top of my lungs just to have a release,” Barber admitted. “And I’m sure I’m not the only one out there.”

Two of the most powerful tracks on the album, “My Mother’s Hand” and “Big Eyes” delve into the mother/child relationship in a way that show’s Barber’s deep reverence for the bond. “Big Eyes” is particularly effecting when she mentions her wish that her children always look at her the way they do now, a wish that’s completely understandable but hardly realistic as the kids enter their teenage years.

“I think they look to me like I’m their home base,” Barber said. “They always return to Mom because I’m a safe place for them. Although now that they’re getting older, part of their job is to break away from us.” 

Barber’s investment in her role as a homemaker translates to great songwriting material. Her desire to set a good example for her children led to thoughtful songs both about them and for them, such as the cheery “Helium,” the one song on the album that may work better for a younger audience.

“Beautiful Life” describes the “major double-edged sword” that Barber considers social media to be and her embrace her messy but beautiful real life. She finds herself bothered by the distortions and curations that social media tends to pressure people to put forward, even admitting that it’s something she does on her professional account. As a parent, she worries about her kids logging on one day.

“I’m worried about all of us,” Barber said. “I think we all have to get literate and wise to it. It can be very deceptive, comparing yourself to the people you see. I’m not one of those people who quits it or says we can’t do it, but I think we need to teach our kids how to use it.”

“Instant Cash for Gold” is a brilliant lead to the album that ruminates on dying dreams. It speaks to Barber’s determination surrounding her music career even though there’s disillusionment that doesn’t gel with other parts of the album. Barber seems unlikely to ever trade her dreams in at a pawn shop as evidenced by “Helium” and the powerful “Woman of My Own Dreams.” 

In terms of pure melodic magic, “Joint Account” featuring Slow Leaves shines brightest. It’s tender, hopeful, and, much like a lot of this album, demonstrates a healthy relationship beautifully.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Jill Barber and the songs we discussed, starting with “Beautiful Life,” which both talks about social media and is shared on a social media platform. The interview begins afterward. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in On Air

On Lavender, Gemma Laurence Sings Love Songs that Shimmer

Gemma Laurence’s Lavender is a honeyed collection of quiet and awkward moments that slowly tell the story of great personal growth. It’s hard to overstate how sweet Laurence’s voice sounds, how well the accompanying instruments contribute to the mood, or how real and precious the flawed love stories feel slipping through her hands. And with positive, tender songs about the queer and trans experiences, Laurence immediately shows that she’s a vital part of the growing queer country movement. 

“Adrienne,” a love song about one of Laurence’s first queer experiences, is notable for the way it holds up awkward details as something that contributes to the romance of the night.

“First dates are always so awkward,” Laurence said on a recent episode of Country Pocket. “There’s such a beauty in that awkwardness. It’s universal for any person on a first date but it’s also quintessentially queer too.”

Laurence credits the pandemic for giving her a unique chance to reflect on moments like the one in “Adrienne” and write songs about them. She does not make many mistakes during Lavender’s eight track runtime. The capturing of fleeting a moment in “35mm” is delicate while the earnest insecurity of “Watchdog” gathers a bit more energy. “Canyon Moon,” the only track that doesn’t sparkle lyrically, contributes plenty through its deep, layered, earthy sound. The album’s slow, rich instrumentation and attention to intimate details throughout makes it a consistently great listen. 

Lavender’s title track, which Laurence says she’s most proud of, isn’t autobiographical like most of the other stories. She wrote it as a song of joy for a friend who was coming out as trans.

“It’s just meant to be a love song to a friend saying I see you, I hear you, and I know that coming out is really difficult, especially for people in the trans community,” Laurence said. “I sent it to her, it meant a lot to her, and I thought it might be worth putting out for other folks who aren’t getting that message elsewhere.” 

While the words in the song and the building music show clear compassing and as solid of a grasp on the metamorphosis that any cisgendered person can have, it’s Laurence’s decision to write the song in the second person that I found particularly effective. It’s a great thing to tell an inspirational story, but it’s so much more important to speak directly to a person and tell them that they’re seen. 

The album closes on a song called “Rearview,” which is the first to capture Laurence outside the paradigm of a relationship. She sings about learning to dance with the person in the mirror.

“It’s really hard being alone.” Laurence said. I’m sure we’ve all felt that. It took me a long time of being by myself to kind of know how to be by myself and not feel like I was incomplete without another person.”

Though she wrote the song a couple years earlier with instrumentation that wouldn’t quite fit on Lavender, Laurence knew it was the right way to conclude her album and celebrate her personal growth.

“When we rerecorded this song I felt this triumphantness,” Laurence said. “I just felt so excited to finally be getting back to New York, to be ready to embark on this mission and have this album about to come out. It really felt in that moment when I was writing that song that there were just bigger things than romance.”

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Gemma Laurence and the songs we discussed, starting with Lavender, which displays remarkable encouragement. The interview begins afterward. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in On Air

Austin Mayse Delivers A Collectivist Message with a Texas Accent

Austin Mayse’s “Wretch Like Me” is a sprawling track that starts out listing a few of his weaknesses before going into a lengthy explanation of his personal philosophy. Dignity, tolerance, community, multiculturalism, and love are prominent themes. It’s a remarkable song that Mayse formed after viewing posts on social media by conservative Christians.

“I would see things using the Christian example as ways to be against somebody,” Mayse said. “Using your religion to discriminate is not what I got from all those lessons growing up. If that makes me a wretch that needs to be saved somehow, that’s fine. You don’t have to worry about me.”

Most of the humility Mayse displays in the song is genuine. When he talks about not having all the answers or telling people what to believe, he means it. When he talks about burning bridges and drinking, that certainly tracks with lyrics on some of his other songs. Mayse said that his song is coated in just enough sugar to go over well with Texas audiences on both sides of the aisle. But when he questions how there could be divinity for a wretch like him, there’s a bit of an edge there.

“It’s more of a rhetorical question,” Mayse explained. “How could somebody who believes in equal rights for everybody deserve to get into heaven? I don’t think there’s that strict of a policy, and I’d rather be somebody who stands up for others than be somebody with a golden ticket punched into somewhere that I don’t understand or can define.”

Mayse’s sense of community and caring showed up elsewhere in our interview. When discussing his song “Rattlesnake,” which admires character traits in certain animals, he notes that wolves succeed as a pack.

“There’s this fierce individualism in the American culture, but really we’re stronger when we stick together,” Mayse said. “We can stand up for ourselves, but helping out those who can’t is what makes us strong.”

Elsewhere on the album, Mayse makes a strong impression with a lyric about being on “the Southern side of a Northern campaign” on nights he drank too much. It’s a nerdy way to explain that he was both in the wrong and burnt to the ground for his intransigence. The Civil War is a frequent topic in roots music, but I’ve never heard it used to describe a hangover before.

“Bluebonnets” uses the characteristics of the short-blooming Texan flower to describe a shielded woman and “The Rose of Thorndale” is a tribute to Mayse’s relationship done up like old Western mythology. Lastly, Mayse earned a few points with me by choosing a relatively unknown Walt Wilkins song to close out his appearance on my radio show.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Austin Mayse and the songs we discussed, starting with The Sober Light, which starts our conversation about his turn away from alcohol. The interview begins afterward. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in On Air

Autumn Ragland Sings About The Faces We Wear on Guardian

In her song “I Think I Love You Too Much,” Autumn Ragland, the lead singer of a band that bears her last name, mentions putting on an ‘everything’s all right’ face to please a person she dedicates an unhealthy amount of energy to pleasing. To hear her tell it, it’s not a face she wears well.

“People tell me all the time I can’t keep a straight face if I’m mad. It’s probably really bad.”

Unfortunately, it is one she has to wear all the time in the music industry.

“I’m having to put that face on and smile and be perfect,” Ragland said. “It’s miserable actually. You don’t see that on the guy’s side. They don’t have to put that much effort in. I would see guys at the same event in jeans and sneakers and having a sour look on their face and people are still flocking to them.”

That’s a topic she covers exceptionally well on “Throwing My Life Away.” It’s the second time Ragland has released the song, but this time it comes with a Sunny Sweeney harmony and improved production value. Autumn Ragland rightfully complains about the double standard women face, especially in light of the songs she tends to release.

It would be more than a little jarring to see Autumn sparkling and smiling wide as she sings about topics like her mental health diagnosis on a song like “Guns In The House,” a particularly effective and sparse tune clocking in at less than two minutes. It’s heartbreaking to hear her realization that she’ll be dependent on medication and susceptible to dangerous thoughts for the rest of her life, and it’s not a moment that would make sense recounted with a smile.

“I don’t like that the way I physically present myself is supposed to say more about my music than my music does and that seems to be the case,” Ragland explained. “It makes no sense that I’m required to be really good and deep and write these songs and be true to myself but I also have to do the complete opposite of that and be fake.”

The song was one she captured right after a visit with a doctor.

“They were telling my husband to keep an eye on me and make sure there’s no weapons in the house.” Ragland said. “I’m not going to do anything like that, but I’ve had moments where it felt like that. If I had access to weapons it would’ve been the end for me.”

Elsewhere on the album, the title track is particularly worth listening to. It’s a genuinely sweet love song with a vocal performance to match. “I’m Not Mad, I Just Miss You” isn’t quite as happy, but the details feel real and further expand on the difficulties of being on the road in a way that goes beyond the cliches.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Autumn Ragland and the songs we discussed, starting with “I Think I Love You Too Much,” which I relate to by thinking about how much I let my cat get away with. I’ll let you decide how sad that is. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in On Air

American and Family Histories Drive Roger Street Friedman’s Love Hope Trust

In a time of ever-worsening division, Long Island musician Roger Street Friedman is arguing that love, hope, and trust are feelings that should flow in more than just our closest relationships. They may be necessary for the survival of our society.

“Like anyone else I can get sucked into the political arguments on Facebook, but I just came to realize it wasn’t serving me or anyone else,” Friedman said. “Really, the way to approach life is to understand that we’re more alike that we are different. We all want the same things, which is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The voices we are hearing are the most extreme voices. It’s not how most people feel.”

In our discussion, Friedman and I were pretty much in agreement that we have to hope for the best and that most people were deserving of love. But we disagreed on just how realistic it is to trust folks on the other side of the aisle in a time of attempts to overturn elections and undermine democracy. I was against the idea. While Friedman noted that his song was “aspirational, he added that misinformation and biases have a lot to do with how people think and that they alone aren’t to blame.

“Understanding what these people are exposed to and what they’re going through makes me hopeful that if I were across the table drinking a beer with somebody that we could have a reasonable and rational discussion,” Friedman said. 

“The Ghosts of Sugarland” is one of the more impressive pieces of activist songwriting from 2022. It specifically tells the story of the prison slave labor Southern states and business such as Imperial Sugar exploited in the years following emancipation. Clocking in at nearly 7 minutes, the song tells the whole story from how a mass grave found at a former prison revealed the horrors that befell the newly freed Black population and the legal maneuverings that allowed it all to happen.

“I was so angry that I never learned about it in school,”  Friedman said. “And then to think about what’s going on now where they’re trying to not teach Black history in school because they don’t want people to feel bad, it just felt like the time was right to tell this story. It was not that long ago. It wasn’t outlawed in Texas until 1912.” 

While the song rightly condemns the 19th and 20th century Whites involved in the scheme, it more gently prods the modern listener to reconsider the true cost of their luxury goods and the complacency it may inspire. Given the product being produced at the plantation, the line about ‘sugarcoating’ what’s taught in schools feels particularly bitter.

Elsewhere on the album, “Mother and Son,” “Thankful For This Day,” and “Multiply by Two” are particularly worth listening to. Friedman really shines when he’s focused on love, positivity, and relationships absolutely packed with the love, hope, and trust he hopes society at large can adopt. “Mother and Son” is especially remarkable in the way it manages to fold in stories from so many family members to create a portrait of a woman I probably would’ve liked a lot.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Roger Street Friedman and the songs we discussed, starting with the title track, which challenged my more distrusting nature. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.