Strange Flesh is the third album by Chicago singer-songwriter Steve Slagg, and the first released under his own name. Since 2011, as Youngest Son, Slagg has self-released a body of quietly urgent, emotionally vulnerable songs, while performing and recording keyboards with other Chicago-area bands, including Mooner, and being mentored by some of his songwriting heroes, including Over the Rhine and Erin McKeown. Without the benefits of promotion or touring, these songs have managed find their way to unexpected corners of the world, finding resonance with the listeners who need them.
Strange Flesh is the culmination of Slagg’s life as a musician and his work–both personal and public—as a queer person raised in the Christian church (Slagg has been involved for most of his adult life with organizations providing LGBT support within faith communities). The album’s songs mingle intensely personal details from Slagg’s own life with stories that are not autobiographical but could be—the types of stories one hears over and over again when building long-term relationships within a marginalized community. A lot of these songs’ “I”s are really “we”s, and in their triumphs and tragedies, love and sexuality, excommunication and communion, they aim for truth, whether through memoir or fiction.
When choosing collaborators, Slagg chose to highlight his deep bonds within the Chicago music community, working with producers (and longtime friends) Lee Ketch and Kit Shields at Harlot’s Progress and engineer Dorian Gehring at Foxhall Studio (Ohmme, Ne-Hi). Contributors to the record include members of Mooner, Contorno, Dusk, and The Obleeks, as well as cellist Cathy Kuna and singer-songwriter Allison Van Liere. Ketch and Shields complement Slagg’s sad choirboy vibe by drawing out the inherent camp and humor in these songs, with arrangements that pay tribute to the baroque pop singer-songwriters of the 60s and 70s, as well as queer-of-center artists from Queen to Judee Sill to Labi Siffre.
“A true and fierce artist.” - @erinmckeown
“As well as adding to the indie hymnal, Youngest Son is adding to the death-haunted literature of friendship.” Eve Tushnet, The American Conservative
“If (God forbid) I die young, someone pay @steveslagg to write a song about me.” @samuel_ernest
Performed with: Aaron Lee Tasjan, Anna McClellan, Birds of Chicago, Erin McKeown, Flamin’ Groovies, Frances Luke Accord, Frontier Ruckus, James McCartney, Mooner, Over the Rhine, Peter Mulvey, the Vulgar Boatmen.
Performed at: Nowhere Else Festival 2018, GCN/QCF Conference 2015, Calvin College’s Festival of Faith and Music 2013.