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10/30/2015
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Sam Gleaves is both talented and a man with courage of heart

Sam Gleaves is both talented and a man with courage of heart and convictions. America has changed a lot in the past few decades, but it's fair to say that there are still a lot of places where being gay is harder than others. Gleaves' Ain't We Brothers takes the LGBTQ agenda into the heart of the Southern Appalachians. His music is rooted in old-time and bluegrass music, so here's hoping that singing the region's language produces the tolerance for which he pleas. When he sings a song such as "My Dixie Darling," he's not singing about a calico-clad lass waiting on the front porch. I'll admit that it's jarring to hear him sing an unbridled love song to another man—not because I disapprove, but because I'm used to hearing country and bluegrass singers croon nostrums about "traditional values," whatever the hell they are. Gleaves also wears his blue-collar roots on his sleeve. "Working Shoes" is a backwoods paean to a poor miner, his grandfather, with all of life's hardships worn into the leathery cracks. And what if that miner is gay, a question he raises on the title track: First things first, I'm a blue collar man/Scrapes on my knuckles and dust on my hands/Probably wouldn't have known/ I've got a man waiting on me at home. Later on he sings, I was born here just the same as you/ Another time, another day/I'm sure the good Lord took his time/ Making each of us just this way/I walked beside you step by step/ And it never crossed my mind/That I would grow up one of the different kind. Then the plea: "But ain't we brothers?" Most of the songs on the album are, in some form or other, about different kinds of love: same-sex love, love of the South, love of humanity…. Can Sam Gleaves melt the hearts of self-styled good ole' boys? Why not? This dude has serious talent: a nice mountain voice and wizardry on banjo, flattop guitar, fiddle, autoharp, and dulcimer. Who cares if the calico lass is a jeans-clad working man?