I’ll be honest, a year ago I had no idea who country singer Chely Wright was. I’m not much of a country aficionado; my collection consists of Carrie Underwood and Reba McEntire. But when headlines started appearing about the first openly gay country music star, I took notice, out of curiosity. I looked her up, noted a few songs to put on my iPod, and then she faded from my life. A few months later, working in my school’s library unpacking books, I saw a familiar face on Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer. I checked the book out and read it.
Wright is a gay activist in a place where activism is very much needed, but I saw her as a gay activist first and a musician second. That is, until I was browsing iTunes with a gift card. I thought of Wright, looked up her recent album, and decided to buy it.
That decision was most definitely a good one.
“Lifted Off the Ground” is a ride of passion, heartbreak, despair, and so much more. The album is heartrendingly honest, and listening is only heightened if you read her memoir and know what inspired her songs.
The amazing journey begins with the single “Broken,” which details the end of a troubled relationship. She describes the situation perfectly: “So here we are, you and me, the sum of all our injuries.” The album takes a long look at Wright’s relationships, with some melancholy songs like “Broken” and some uplifting ones that are sure to bring a smile to your face, like “Heavenly Days.” The positive mood continues as Wright lifts your heart with “Hang Out in Your Heart.”
Then the feel of the album shifts with “Notes to the Coroner,” a first fast-paced, upbeat song. Despite the catchy melody and danceable rhythm, it is without a doubt the darkest track here, as Wright sings about leaving notes with clues about how she’ll die. Despite or perhaps because of this, the song is the catchiest and wittiest on the album. The album slows for “Like Me,” named for her Like Me Organization, which aims to help the LGBT community. On this song Wright shows some of her softest and most intimate vocals.
The second single, “Damn Liar,” is supposedly about one of Wright’s exes, but she explained in interviews that it was also about hiding her sexuality. She sings, “You gotta keep on spinnin’ around, Never let your worlds collide, ‘Cause if we all start talkin’, There might be nowhere for you to hide.”
As far as I can see, this album is near perfect. All people – gay or straight, country fans or not – will find something to enjoy.