At the end of the day, you just have to chalk it up to experience. That’s the creed behind Secret Emchy Society’s newest album, The Chaser. Recorded in the Bay Area basement of veteran rock and country singer Cindy Emch (the y was added by an emcee who couldn’t pronounce her name without another vowel), The Chaser is a mellow country music examination of a life well-lived. Emch is also a queer country stalwart who has worked tirelessly to promote and expand the community.
Musically, Emch’s voice is smooth and welcoming, like your favorite bottle of bourbon. (I know that’s cliché, but the liquor makes so many appearances in her lyrics that we have to assume Emch is at least part Maker’s Mark.) Her throwback sensibility extends to her lyrics: The Chaser is infused with a country gold sense of humor: witty, mild, and self-deprecating.
Torch songs like “Hell Is a Hard Place” feel like they’ve traveled from a time machine with a laid-back Bakersfield shuffle. Inspired by the intensity of bonding and isolation on tour, the song communicates both an existentialist fear and the reminder that none of us can make it through alone — either in a van or in the outside world.
By contrast, “Whiskey Fightin’ Terry” is a fun, punk-ish character sketch with a space-y surf energy reminiscent of another queer country band: Girls on Grass. The song can only be told through the eyes of some seriously grizzled punk survivors like Emch and her society. While this album overall shows reverence for country traditions, Secret Emchy Society push the envelope where they can.
Meanwhile, the album’s title track, “The Chaser,” expresses incredible complexity in three verses, a chorus, and a bridge. Inspired by a conversation with her wife, Emch captures the melancholy of a restless soul: happiness with what she’s built, a yearning for the thrill of the chase, and the inherent loneliness of searching even among contentment and community.
The Chaser will carry you, confidently and assuredly, through these emotional highs and lows. As you drift through Secret Emchy Society’s gentle journey, you’ll come to realize that once you’ve spent enough time living life, you might actually get used to it.