Fans in Beyonce's native Houston fete new country album

A girl skates during a listening party for Beyonce's new album "Cowboy Carter" at an outdoor roller skating rink in the megastar's native Houston, Texas (Mark Felix)
A girl skates during a listening party for Beyonce's new album "Cowboy Carter" at an outdoor roller skating rink in the megastar's native Houston, Texas (Mark Felix)

In Beyonce's hometown of Houston fans turned out in full force at a roller rink listening party celebrating the megastar's new country album.

The scene Friday night was a jubilant display of support for the 42-year-old Texan, who faced some bigoted criticism when she announced her new project "Cowboy Carter," which was released in full on Friday.

Despite the long lineage of Black artists in country music, overwhelmingly white and male gatekeepers of the genre have long vied to rigidly dictate its boundaries.

But they were no match for Beyonce, who pressed on and dropped a 27-track epic to great fanfare.

"I think Beyonce's new album is awesome simply because in my opinion she's bringing back awareness as to where country music started -- a lot of people don't know that country music started with us as Black Americans," said Lashria Hadley, a nurse.

"I think it's a beautiful thing. A lot of things were appropriated from us and taken from us," she continued. "So she's just bringing back that awareness as to where it all started, and she's doing it so effortlessly because she's Beyonce."

"Cowboy Carter" is the second installment of her "Renaissance" trilogy, a rollicking, history-rich honky tonk of an album that quickly soared to the top of the streaming rankings.

It's rife with country elements but also draws across the genres, including rap, dance, soul, rock, gospel and funk.

"This I think is probably her best album yet. I think it is so thoughtful, it is so new, it is so different really than anything else that she's done before," said Austin Davis Ruiz, a civil servant.

He noted that Beyonce both pays homage to groundbreaking Black country artists like Linda Martell -- who features on the album -- and also makes a point of "uplifting newer Black country artists that maybe haven't also gotten their due."

- 'Proud of her' -

And for anyone who says Beyonce isn't country enough to sing country?

"She's from the south, she's from Texas," said Valeria Pasquel, who works in marketing. "She's always been a country girl, but it was just a matter of time before she actually did a whole country album."

Lindsey Cooksen agrees: "She's always repped Houston, she always talks about how she's a country girl at the bottom of her heart."

"It makes perfect sense to me. I don't know why anybody was confused," she continued. "We're very proud of her."

That the listening party was held at a roller rink was also in line with Beyonce's roots; she used to skate as a child, and even filmed her 2013 music video for the track "Blow" at a Houston roller rink.

Teacher Candice Williams said that "being from Houston and from Texas, we've always sang country music."

"Black women have always sung country music, this is nothing new, it's just the fact that she's such a worldwide known artist," Williams said. "So she's bringing country music like out there to pop artists and people who don't know the background."

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