“Cast Iron Pansexual” – Album Review

Tony Madden

Lyrically complex yet reminiscent of traditional bluegrass stylings, Adeem the Artist’s “Cast Iron Pansexual” is as multi-faceted as country music gets. Through a charming Carolina twang and country strings, Adeem touches on the complexities of queerness, growing up in the South, working class Americans and even “Honeysuckle Hipbilly Homo-Erotica” with effortless croons. 

“Cast Iron Pansexual” is Adeem’s sophomore album, following the release of “Kyle Adem Is Dead” in 2016 and a handful of other singles and EPs over the years. A non-binary artist living in East Tennessee, much of Adeem’s work surrounds themes of queerness and fruition of queer identities as a young person in the South.

This is perhaps best illustrated in the album’s opening track “I Never Came Out,” where a banjo accompanies Adeem as they tell the story of their identity coming to fruition. Adeem touches on the “othering” of queer identities and bigotry. 

“Been taught since I was born to other everybody else,” Adeem sings. “I could not be one of those rainbow-lovin’ boys who chose to live in sin.”

In “Apartment,” Adeem takes to a melody evocative of country ballads past for a tale of shame and longing. 

“One day I’ll be older, bold enough to hold your hand,” Adeem sings. “Unashamed to put my lips against another man’s.”

Perhaps the most compelling tracks on “Cast Iron Pansexual” are those which defend and adovcate for the working class, such as “Womyn Who Bartend.” In this track, Adeem sings of waitresses who “won’t take no lip from men who are your kind.”

“Womyn who bartend in dive bars off highways deserve to be given awards,” Adeem sings. 

Adeem revisits themes of the working class in the lead single “I Wish You Would’ve Been A Cowboy,” co-written with Summer Awad

A play on Toby Keith’s country chart-topper “Should’ve Been A Cowboy” from 1993, Adeem calls Keith out for bastardizing the culture of the South and acting as a false representative of working class people from the country.

“You wore my life like a costume on the TV, milking laborers for your prosperity” Adeem sings. “I wish you would’ve been a cowboy, Toby Keith.”

Keith also famously contributed to the boom in racist and insensitive “patriotic” themes in country music following 9/11.

“You were celebrating war with eagles and star-spangled anger, spinning lives and loss into stage props and radio plays.”

Even in these criticisms, Adeem makes an astute point for those of us who grew up listening to country radio. Abhorrent themes and all, we still know these songs quite well: “It was the first of many verses that I memorized loosely,” Adeem sings.

“I Wish You Would’ve Been A Cowboy” is the most gripping track on “Cast Iron Pansexual,” especially for its inward-looking criticism of a genre that reminds us of home. If there’s anything country music needs in this day and age, it’s this kind of music.

“Cast Iron Pansexual” effortlessly unpacks a number of cultural complexities around queerness and class in a genre and medium that is famous for dodging difficult dialogues. It unashamedly explores those dialogues with the classic narrative structure early of country music, and I can’t get enough. 

Listen to “Cast Iron Pansexual” on Spotify: