The ‘We Shall Overcome EP’ landed on CD yesterday, and all pre-orders shipped First Class this morning so will be landing on doormats from tomorrow.
For years I have been chewing over the idea of a record of covers, not just ANY covers but songs written in the golden age of protest music and sung in the corners of fields, on picket lines and factory floors, to help Educate, Agitate, Organise, and to inspire.
Many of the songs I considered were Little Red Song Book staples, from the days when the IWW helped spread them through their regular publications, because they understood the unique way in which music helps not only to convey a message, but to hammer it deep into the hearts and minds of those who raise their voices to sing.
Some of these songs are very well known. ‘Solidarity Forever’ and ‘Which Side Are You On?’ both performed here with the Hatfield Brigade, are well known lefty anthems with lyrics by Ralph Chaplin and Florence Reece respectively, which I’ve adapted for the current political climate; and civil rights era hymn ‘We Shall Overcome’ I played straight because that’s how it works best, but the presence of the mighty Commoners Choir makes it a magical close to the record.
Two more are less well known. ‘Tomorrow Is A Highway’ was a Lee Hays lyric Pete Seeger set to music; and ‘Step By Step’ a haunting metaphorical lesson in the power of unity. Both I adapted the lyrics to, and both are brought to life by Rebekah Findlay’s violin.
Rebekah takes lead vocal on ‘Bread & Roses’ bringing that lyric to life over a Phil Spector meets Jesus & Mary Chain backing track; while the EP is completed, perhaps incongruously, by my version of Paul Simmonds 1986 The Men They Couldn’t Hang classic ‘The Ghosts Of Cable Street’; and a massive thank you to Paul for his permission to use it here and stand it shoulder to shoulder with such legendary songs, exactly where it belongs.
The idea behind this EP was to save as much money as I could through 2019, then stand the cost of pressing it and give every penny it raises away to We Shall Overcome causes fighting on the front line of poverty in some of our most forgotten communities. I think the original writers and performers would approve of their work being put to such use in the 21st Century. I hope so anyway.
Primarily the EP will support my new #NotOnOurWatchCampaign helping people bridge the gap when the money runs out. In this way I hope to keep lights on, homes warm, and food on the table for folks who would otherwise be sat cold and hungry in the dark.
The EP is available to stream, download, and buy on CD here:
and your support would be massively appreciated.