Toad pal and musical favourite Samantha Crain has a new album out called Under Branch & Thorn & Tree (buy one here). I haven’t covered the album on Song, by Toad yet, mainly because I don’t really write record reviews anymore, but it’s really good.
It’s been interesting watching Sam become more and more politically vocal on Facebook recently. It’s mostly US socio-political stuff rather than global geo-politics, and tends to cover a lot of the topics which have been in the news over the last couple of years, from the treatment of non-white people in the States to the more specific issues facing native people (she is Choctaw herself, I think).
I’ve also seen some folk have a dig at her here and there for being too much of an activist and not staying in the nice, neat box of ‘popular entertainer’. Personally I think it’s great though. Partly, if non-white people don’t speak up whenever they can, how is the fact that white voices dominate all media conversations ever going to be challenged. And partly, as a white, cis-gendered, hetero middle-class etc. male, how am I going to develop a better perspective on my own privilege if my non-white, non-male, non-hetero etc. etc. etc. friends don’t constantly point out things which my privilege might easily either cause me to underestimate or blind me to altogether. Personally, I am just grateful that she has the energy to keep talking about this stuff.
Protest music is a tricky one to tackle, post-Bono, but Sam describes this as her underdog album. From the press release:
“It focuses on every-day, small town life and the challenges of the working class who have lost their voice in today’s “one-percenter” society.
“The oligarchy we live under today is not the republic we were promised and it is important to see that and to take action,” said Crain. “I’m not trying to win arguments, I just want to get people involved in the conversation.””
I remember some painfully contrived attempts at addressing the 9/11 attacks, and wondering if we could really produce proper protest music anymore, given how strongly we cling to irony, tangent and obliqueness in the lyrics of fashionable music. It seemed like a straight, sincere protest album addressing current issues would simply seem too self-conscious and somehow naive these days.
Recently, though, with economic hardship and gross societal power imbalances nibbling away at the actual foundations of the Western civilisation it seems people can tackle this stuff and have it come out sounding ‘right’. I don’t know what the difference is. Maybe people are just so pissed off these days that they just don’t give a fuck, and that is what makes the music good. Given how little access people of colour have to dominant forms of mainstream media, music still feels to me like an important outlet for these voices, and it seems that more and more good stuff is emerging that is pissed off, unabashed and has something to say.
And finally, some more details on the video at the top of the page:
“Directed by Houston-based filmmakers Weston Getto Allen and Dorian Electra, the “Killer” video was inspired by Michael Brown, who was brutally gunned down on a Ferguson, MO street by police officer Darren Wilson, Freddie Gray’s “rough ride” in a Baltimore police van that led to his traumatic death, and John Crawford, shot by police in an Ohio Walmart while facing away from the officers, on his cell phone, holding a toy BB gun he had picked up off a store shelf.
“According to Allen and Electra, “‘Killer’ tells the story of Evan, an African American boy who dreams of becoming a police officer in order to better his community, but who is killed by the police because of the colour of his skin.” The video stars Evan Horsley and was filmed in Houston’s Third Ward and at the historic African American Olivewood Cemetery in Houston. Dating back to the 1870s, it was the first African American burial ground within Houston’s city limits, and was established on land that was formerly a graveyard for slaves.”