Don’t let the authoritarian hype fool you: we live in an era of inclusiveness, one where transgender artists like Shawna Virago are finally able to receive the attention that they’ve arguably always deserved. Shamefully, from the time that Virago first hit the scene with scorching folk lyricism and punkish vocal delivery back in the 90s, we lived in a time that wasn’t burgeoning but not quite ready to embrace the LGBTQ community nearly as thoroughly or encompassing as the age of the internet has granted us today. Virago is one who proudly speaks from the eyes of an individual who has been a part of decades-long backlash purely because of who she is. Her music is all the better for it.
The truly compelling center-point of Virago’s music comes in its riding the electric perfectly between relatability for both trans community and society at large. Whether one is listening to her album specifically from the viewpoint of a means of putting a lens over life as a transgender person through the eyes of someone’s who’s lived it, or simply as yet another album to digest as another acoustic, anthemic scorcher among the rest, there’s something here for everybody. There is an underlying theme of protest that scores the album’s themes that comes as unsurprising from Virago considering her influences—Leonard Cohen, Billy Bragg, Jeffrey Lee Pierce, and others—that she captures incredibly well when telling her story on Heaven Sent Delinquent, as well.
Every track on the record is a standout painting more of a picture of who Virago is as an individual for those really listening. More than it encompasses an overarching perception of trans lives as they’ve been viewed by society over the decades, it offers up a view of the world specifically through Virago’s eyes and mindset. This is an album that embraces the sharper edges of an anti-folk movement, soaring at its highest points when Virago sets any over-production aside to tell it how it is by how she sees it. Luckily for us, that’s for the entirety of her latest album.
Words by: Jonathan Frahm