H.C. McEntire’s Gnarled, Tender ‘LIONHEART’ Is A Country Debut Like No Other

Managing Editor, Music
02.02.18 6 Comments

Heather Evans Smith

The RX is Uproxx Music’s stamp of approval for the best albums, songs, and music stories throughout the year. Inclusion in this category is the highest distinction we can bestow, and signals the most important music being released throughout the year. The RX is the music you need, right now.

I’m drawn to anything that’s hard to unravel, or that ties itself in knots as it goes along. I’m drawn, mostly, to music that grapples with pain, with mistakes, with settling into life’s weird twisted grooves, and smashing your way out. I’ve been drawn to H.C. McEntire’s songwriting — both in Mount Moriah, and now, as a solo artist — for years now, because it doesn’t give way to easy answers or easy analysis. Her songs are rich and gnarled, like the roots of a tree, or the southern country tradition she readily pulls from. On her formal debut on her own, LIONHEART, McEntire names her own strength where no one else could. Sometimes the only voice you can trust is your own, this is a record about that feeling.

The term roots music has long been a catch-all term for anything nestled into the country/blues/folk/Americana tradition, but on McEntire’s debut it has never felt more apt. As a queer woman living and creating in the south — Durham, North Carolina to be specific — McEntire has reconciled her faith, her family, and heritage with an innate sense of her ability to love who she loves. It is a singular work of triumph and trouble; there is no solution laid out other than the one that timeless, essential art always arrives at: Love. But the journey toward or nearing this resolution is constructed on LIONHEART with a stubborn, southern charm that hews close to Mount Moriah’s foundation of Americana, and builds even higher.

Surely, McEntire is not the first openly queer artist working in the country milieu, the classic reissue of Lavender Country’s self-titled debut by fellow North Carolina compatriots Paradise Of Bachelors is an initial companion album that springs to mind. However, that band’s frontman, Patrick Haggerty, was working in the first wave of gay activists and liberation movement, McEntire’s album is entirely of now, and, it’s more personal than political. As any marginalized artist working on the fringes of mainstream knows, the two are inextricable, especially when it comes to things you feel unspoken in your heart and bones.

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