by Kate Conner-Ruben
God, I love this country.
The burgeoning popularity of the gay, old-timey duo Y'All gives hope to a weary world. Y'All is James Dean Jay Byrd (his real name) and Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer partners in life, love, and weird/classic/dadaist country music for nearly a decade. After years in New York City, the pair relocated to Nashville in 1998 and have been having a blast touring the country in a trailer, using Music City as a solid and surprisingly welcoming home base.
I recently got a chance to spin their brand new CD, Hey, Y'All!, the sound track to the first season of their very own TV show. "The easiest way to describe it is a cross between Hee Haw and Sonny and Cher," said Byrd in an interview with the Advocate in April. The show boasts an A-list cadre of Nashville musicians, plus contests, special guests, and lots of endearing appearances by Kristi Rose, the Jingle Girl who sings the show's opening number with a sprightly twang:
| Way down in a town called Music City |
There's a couple of fellas and they sing real pretty
And you can't miss 'em, 'cause one of 'em wears a dress.
So sit right down and they'll sing a song
And next time 'round you'll be singing along
Till all your troubles couldn't matter less.
Then James and Steve take the stage for a lineup of great old covers (Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line," Tom Paxton's "The Last Thing on My Mind") and plenty of zany originals sung in Y'All's signature whimsically gentle vocals. It all made me really want to watch the show, especially hearing James or Steve (we're on a first-name basis now) yell out, "Take it, Fatty!" to fiddle whiz Fats Kaplan.
But alas, I can't see the show, and you can't either. That's because there is no show. Not yet, at least.
Confidently eschewing issues
of chronology, Y'All have gone ahead and put out the sound track without actually having a TV show at all. Oh, there have been meetings with Comedy Central, there are plans, and all the music is done, but so far there's no show proper.
In the meantime Y'All continue to tour and sing such numbers as "Throw Away the Knives and Forks," "My Man, Our Horses, and Me," and my personal favorite, the swingy "My Mama Likes the Feel of Cottage Cheese."
Y'All sing sweet like two Eddy Arnolds and sassy like They Might Be Giants all likkered up. The result is camp with a heart full of grits. You can catch them on a bill with local musical luminaries in the Love Makes a Family concert at EMU's Pease Auditorium on Sunday, July 21, or by themselves at the Ark on Tuesday, July 23.
[Originally published in July, 2002.]