This article previously appeared on Crossfader
Genre: Country Pop
Favorite Tracks: “Little Sister,” “Soldier,” “Red Side of the Moon,” and “The Well”
ONE STONE is the story of the performer who endures after being hit by life’s bullshit, and Trixie Mattel firmly holds her stone, ready to take down any birds that get in her way of success. The drag, country-folk companion piece to TWO BIRDS, ONE STONE is a story about the loneliness of touring and the lack of substantial relationships on the road. If you’re not into drag queens, you’re probably thinking: “Who the fuck cares?” People forget that out of drag, Trixie Mattel is “just a white guy that doesn’t like hugs.” When Brian Firkus (Trixie’s name out of drag) first started at open mics, he realized there are so many white guys with guitars that Trixie is the special, Barbie-toy-packaging that makes the music sell. Digging deeper into Trixie’s personal life, ONE STONE presents a fuller sounding band, with more inventive metaphors to substantiate her Wisconsin roots. As Trixie has stated: “I’m gay, we like themes.”
TWO BIRDS broke a mold in the drag music world, straying away from unabashed dance music or rapping/spoken-word, existing as a solid folk record. It’s special because no one else is doing it; no one in the mainstream drag scene is putting out entirely serious music that has nothing to do with drag. TWO BIRDS solidifies Trixie’s musical advantage; whether you realize the narrator is in drag or not does not matter to the content of the album. ONE STONE offers more life lessons burrowed away in her plastic heart.
“Little Sister” is Trixie’s message to her own little sister from a small town. In 2018 you can take the world by storm as a woman, but coming from a small town in Wisconsin, it is easy to get stuck and diminish your dreams and goals. With Trixie’s dark edge, there is assurance that it doesn’t get better, and that the whole world sucks but you must do the best you can to put your all into it. Complete with a fiddle, bluegrass guitar, and washboard, as an album opener it’s fuller and more folk than all of TWO BIRDS, with cute internal rhymes and the simplicity of her country family life. “I know that you think you’re growing but you’re just tall,” acknowledges Trixie’s omniscience in knowing moving away was best for her own success. She is not the world’s greatest singer, but this song hosts the best vocals on the album.
“Break Your Heart” and “Moving Parts” deliver a poppier approach to country, and not for the best. “Break Your Heart” seems to be put out to please those fans disappointed in folk and craving a gay dance anthem, so country pop it is, including horrible synth claps, the simplest lyrics, and Trixie’s least impressive vocal performance. This ONE STONE rendition of the previously released “Moving Parts” is way too on-the-nose and upbeat. There were flaws and a wrong note or two in the acoustic recording, but that’s what made it folk music and felt rehearsed rather than manufactured. The charm in the previous iteration was that it was uplifting and hopeful without needing the energetic kick drum.
However, “Red Side of the Moon” and “The Well” elevate ONE STONE, with “Red Side of the Moon” acting as the laid-back story to hear as you rock on the front porch swing and “The Well” utilizing sounds of a dripping cave to create the atmosphere of a lonely wishing well, even featuring a small cymbal crash for a magical eruption of the chorus. “The Well” keeps it short and sweet, only detailing enough as is necessary for the ballad on the album, but is so powerful, immediately captivating with the strumming of light guitar notes from the start. Trixie’s most powerful quality is her smart lyrics: “So you sold your soul and now you’re on the run, arcade tokens and a smokin’ gun.” She continuously taps into sentimental nostalgia, but makes everything about love modern and appropriate while maintaining a sense of authenticity.
Album closer, “Wind Up Man,” is the cute love story for Trixie’s future. Not pop country, just upbeat bluegrass, her toy persona meets the wind-up man of her dreams until he breaks. “They say machine’s ain’t made for lovin’, but I believe that they can plug into your heart.” Quirky and imaginative, the fiddle still plays and hands clap to keep it upbeat and remind us all that Trixie is still a fun character even though she can wrangle us in for deep, personal stories.
ONE STONE is spectacular storytelling from the drag country-folk musician, but could go further sonically on each song. The album almost plays it too safe, but Trixie is in the market of experimentation and might as well take her own advice from soldier and take greater risks. But any way you slice it, Trixie created a folk journey about simple human endurance, and all through a new perspective.