When I first heard Buffalo Gals’ “I’d Just As Soon Stay Home” wafting my direction from the KABF-FM, 88.3, transmitter during Amy Garland’s Friday afternoon show “Backroads,” it seemed like the perfectly placid expression of a COVID-colored summer. In it, Melissa Carper, with a voice made of honeysuckle and campfire smoke and spring water, sings a genial act of resignation: “I used to go out on the town/Get dressed up, drink and laugh/Order two-for-ones, try to have a little fun/Those times are in the past.”
There’s a lot more to the album than its quarantine soundtrack qualities, though, particularly its treatment of matters of identity. “Where the Heart Wants to Go” takes its title from a line in Carper and Brennen Leigh’s self-described “Nebraska love song,” “Billy and Beau,” a vignette about a same-sex childhood crush that develops over the course of hay baling seasons and 4-H fairs, and the gospel-tinged “Pray the Gay Away” channels the interior monologue every queer kid in the Bible Belt has likely felt at some point or another: “Mama’d buy me a pretty frock pink/Dress me up and curl my hair/But my brother’s old hand-me-down shirts and jeans/Was all I’d ever want to wear.”
Banjoist/upright bassist Carper and Rebecca Patek, a three-time winner of the Wisconsin State Fiddle Championship, make up half of beloved jug band Sad Daddy. Where Sad Daddy sounds like your cousin’s moonshine tastes, though, Carper and Patek’s duo work goes down more like a cup of tea, pared-down and unhurried. Check out our 2019 conversation with Patek here, and definitely check out this new record.