A Traditional Revolution: How Sam Gleaves Is Changing Roots Music

Written by: Kara Kundert
To tell you the truth, I don’t want to fight
I just want to say one thing outright to you
Ain’t we flesh and blood all through
And ain’t we brothers too? -- Sam Gleaves (feat. Tim O'Brien), "Ain't We Brothers?"
It's been said before that music is only as powerful as the truth that's put into it. And no one can argue that Sam Gleaves hasn't put his truth into his music. In his 2015 release "Ain't We Brothers?", Sam has captured a sentiment widely shared among LGBT musicians (and the broader LGBT community): we don't want to fight with anyone for our rights or respect, we just want to be accepted as equals without judgment. He also did something new and brave by being an out and proud gay musician in the roots community.
Sam has shone a light on a corner that is oft-ignored in our society, the intersection of LGBT and Appalachian cultures. In many people's minds, those two groups may seem completely distinct, a Venn diagram of two separate circles. By sharing his truth, his voice, and his skills as a picker with the world, he has added a new story to our cultural vernacular -- a point of contact between the circles. As time continues to march on and progress slowly seeps into all corners of our society, more and more stories like Sam's will start to rise to the surface and reshape our views of the boxes we place ourselves in to categorize and understand each other. Personally, I can't wait to see what comes next.
For more on Sam Gleaves, check out one of these many excellent articles and interviews, or listen to him in our 2017 Bluegrass Pride playlist.

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