We Shall Overcome EP: The Rhymes & The Reasons

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:

https://joesolomusic.bandcamp.com/album/we-shall-overcome-ep

and your support would be massively appreciated.

NEW MUSIC 2020

There are four new releases en route in 2020 so here’s a quick heads-up on what’s imminent incoming.

First up is the 7-track ‘We Shall Overcome EP’ which is available to download now with CD copies landing next week. I recorded these protest covers with the principle aim of selling it to raise money for #WSO2020 causes and the brand new #NotOnOurWatchCampaign. Six are songs associated with Pete Seeger, and the seventh The Men They Couldn’t Hang‘s ‘Ghosts Of Cable Street’ which Paul Simmonds kindly gave me permission to include here. I had help from The Hatfield Brigade on Solidarity Forever’ and ‘Which Side Are You On?’; Commoners Choir on ‘We Shall Overcome’; and there’s some absolutely sublime Rebekah Findlay fiddle on ‘Tomorrow Is A Highway’ and ‘Step By Step’. The CD is a fiver, and the download ‘Name Your Price’, but every penny will go to supporting WSO causes wherever need is greatest.

You can bag that here:

https://joesolomusic.bandcamp.com/album/we-shall-overcome-ep

Second is the ‘No Pasaran: Special Edition’ which will land next month. The original album sold out late last year, but I had more songs which helped further to tell the story of Hull’s volunteers and I wanted to include them as bonus tracks. So there are five additional songs again featuring Commoners Choir and Rebekah Findlay, but also with a very special Solidarity Choir featuring relatives of Hull’s International Brigade heroes joining me in a call-and-response tribute to their forefathers. There is brand new artwork by Kevin Pearson which is also available as a limited edition signed and numbered A4 print if you’re quick. You can pre-order the CD, download, or bag that artwork here:

https://joesolomusic.bandcamp.com/album/no-pasaran-special-edition

Third on the roster is the brand new Lithium Joe single ‘Answer Machine/Forget To Remember’ which we finish on January 30th and will get out there as soon as we can. The backing track is almost complete, so it’s up to Dave Foy and meself to get our vocals down and make the thing fly. Bonus track on the CD will be ’29 More Stolen Summers’ an acoustic track featuring Rebekah on fiddle.

The fourth will follow in the Summer. It’s a 10-track CD of songs written as we pick through the rubble of one struggle and dust ourselves down for the next. With the working title ‘Keep On Fighting’, I’ll be chiselling away at the demos and re-records over the coming weeks before the gigs make recording impossible once more. You can hear the early versions here:

https://joesolomusic.bandcamp.com/album/keep-on-fighting

I’ll also be working on a double-CD compiling my best work so far and putting together an accompanying songbook. This may take some time though so early 2021 is more realistic than this year…..but then who knows.

Please support these releases if you can. As ever, a fiver from every CD sale goes to WSO causes, in particular to Pauline Town to help fund her extraordinary work fighting homelessness in Greater Manchester; but on top of that it is so good to travel miles and miles from home and hear people singing along with every word. That is an incredible feeling I will never tire of, and it can’t happen unless you know the stuff!

Plenty to be going on with there I reckon.

But there’s plenty more left in me yet.

NOT ON OUR WATCH CAMPAIGN

Please don’t struggle through the next few weeks without food or heating because December’s money runs out before January’s arrives.

I have set up #NotOnOurWatchCampaign up to use my music in a way that stands in solidarity with all those our failed State has left behind. It is an attempt, no matter how futile, to shore up the dam, to hold back the flood, and I will move heaven and earth to help if I can.

Message me if you are struggling, and I will try to raise small amounts to get you through those days you would otherwise be going cold and hungry. It’s NOT charity. I believe it has become a responsibility now to stand in defiance of the poison that dominates parliament, and to stand in solidarity with all of its victims in any way possible.

My work with We Shall Overcome, and especially that alongside Pauline Town, has shown me austerity has impacted on our communities in many different ways, from those made street homeless to those targeted for benefit sanctions; from those on poverty wages and zero hours contracts to those tricked into becoming ‘self-employed’; from those losing out on Universal Credit to those whose empty bedroom takes all their food money, or whose disability claim is fraudulently turned down by those being paid handsomely by the tax payer to save the tax payer money.

All of these problems and no one solution to any of it.

But we can try.

One of the conversations I have had most is with people who went 48 hours hungry and cold because the money ran out before the wages or the benefit payment arrived. It is desperately sad to hear people you know and love going through this, and it simply should not be happening.

Small amounts can stop this. £5/£10/£20 is often all it takes, but it is a hidden effect of austerity because the suffering it inflicts is short-term, relatively minor, and not worth column inches in a newspaper.

Unless you’re going through it.

Then the guilt, the sense of helplessness, the wounded pride, the impotent rage are overwhelming.

So I want to try and stop as many people as I can from going through it.

Message me, entirely in confidence, and with no strings attached. It isn’t a loan. It is one way I can use music to fight back. If I can get you to payday I will, and judging from the messages I have received in support of this, we can raise more if we need it.

We can, we must, and we will fight back and ultimately we will win; but in the meantime the offer of help is here if you need it.

Do not suffer in silence.

Message me.

In solidarity
Joe ✊❤️👊

2019: That Was The Year That Was.

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So that was 2019, a year that brought hope and heartbreak, dreams, doubts and disappointment, and yet leaves us with a sense that something HAS to change for the better and soon. I was always told that light shines brightest in the darkest places, so we take that light where we can find it and, as a new year beckons, we fight on.

For me 2019 started in the Trades Club, Rotherham and ended in All Hallows Church, Leeds eleven months and two days later. En route the madness and the mayhem landed in Nottingham, Hull, London, Ashton-under-Lyne, Crewe, York, Doncaster, Walthamstow, Bishop Auckland, Wakefield, Stoke, Burnley, Wrexham, Medway, Durham, Saltburn, Scunthorpe, Hartlepool, Sheffield, Barnsley, Hebden Bridge, Redcar, Oldham, Stockton-on-Tees, Manchester, Dewsbury, Liverpool, Tolpuddle, Widnes, Glasgow, Bradford, Wigan, Goole, Brighton, Stainforth, Darlington, Whitby, Pickering, Middlesbrough and Haxey…..some of them multiple times…..and I crawled home mid-December absolutely shattered; but every single mile was worth it for the singing and shouting, the smiles and the solidarity. We did good out there in testing times, and I can’t wait to get back on the road in January.

Highlights have to include my first ever sold-out headline show in London at Greenwich Theatre back in February; the album launch for ‘Headscarves & Hurricanes’ at The Station Hotel, Ashton-under-Lyne; unveiling the the new memorial to Hull’s International Brigade volunteers…..

opening for the peerless Grace Petrie in a packed Old Cinema Launderette in Durham…..

Grace and Joe Durham 2019

….when I even got to SING harmony!!!

Grace and Joe singing Durham 2019

……our best May Day Festival Of Solidarity yet, where I sang for the first time live with Commoners Choir, a sound that will stay with me forever….

….‘With Banners Held High’ where I got to recite my custom-written poem to kick the whole thing off, and sing with the Commoners AGAIN!

…..singing ‘Headscarves & Hurricanes’ right in the heart of the Hessle Road community whose stories the record tells was truly spine-tingling….

And the whole gig was captured on camera here:

……Durham Miners Gala with the Hatfield Brigade is ALWAYS a day to remember, especially when you’re given the honour of pole duty (the left one, obviously hehe)…

There was the truly FANTASTIC Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival….

….where I shared a stage with Naomi Bedford and Paul Simmonds on top of delivering mischief as per; there was the utterly brilliant Love Glasgow, Hate Racism event sharing a bill with my comrades and friends The Wakes among many others, and meeting the legendary Skids-frontman Richard Jobson

…..the Peterloo March to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the massacre in St Peter’s Field 16th August 1819….

An unforgettable Wigan Diggers Festival where I not only got to hand the Gerrard Winstanley Gold Spade Award to the wonderful Pauline Town, but I got to sing with first Darren Poyzer, and then my boyhood heroes The Men They Couldn’t Hang!!!

A truly incredible afternoon at Musicport Festival in Whitby, sharing a stage with Rebekah Findlay and Commoners Choir on a very packed North Sea Stage….

…..and, after thousands of miles for We Shall Overcome, hundreds more for the Labour Party, Xmas hospital singalongs, and just about every other form of mischief that could be conjured, the gigging year ended with a sold-out WSO show in Leeds.

Joe and Commoners Leeds

In between, I managed to record Commoners Choir, Rebekah Findlay, The Hatfield Brigade, and a special Hull Relatives Solidarity Choir for new releases; raise £1200 for Refugees putting my running shoes on for the British Red Cross….

Monument with ghosts

……oh and reform Lithium Joe for two VERY special gigs which raised £1800 for Greater Manchester’s homeless and Hull Help For Refugees at a packed Station in Ashton for my 50th birthday We Shall Overcome all-dayer; and a sold-out Adelphi in Hull the night after…..

So small wonder then that I’m a little bit knackered right now.

Though not knackered enough to not pen a brand new 4-track EP called ‘Keep On Fighting’ to put the wind back in a few sagging sails as we steel ourselves to fight all over again. That, plus a brand new single from Lithium Joe, a re-issue of ‘No Pasaran’ with bonus tracks, and the imminent ‘We Shall Overcome EP’ of protest covers will form the basis of what I’m up to in 2020.

And read about the new ‘Not On Our Watch Campaign’ elsewhere on this site. That will be used to help anyone running out of money before a pay day or benefit payment to stop them having to turn off the heating or go without food.

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And so a MASSIVE thank you to all of you who supported me through thick and thin; who marched at my side, who sang along, who shouted and hollered and laughed and cried; who kept me going when I needed coffee or a hug; who bought the CDs and the t-shirts and the downloads to keep the appeals going, making sure we did everything we could to feed and clothe and house folks who needed us in their darkest hour of need; and of course, to all you amazing people who book me to play and keep me out there doing what I do best.

Special mentions to my comrade-in-crayons Kevin Pearson for his unflinching support; Tony Wright for being my brother in arms; to Paul and Lindsay Rutland for being my road buddies over more miles than are healthy; Chip Hamer and all at Poetry On The Picket Line, for showing street-level solidarity to the world and being there when I’m miles away from home; to Dave, Big E and Aidy for making a 25 year old racket fresher and more fun than ever; Dave Griffiths for getting me electric again; Pete Yen without whom We Shall Overcome would have withered and died; and of course to Pauline Town, a daily inspiration when the world gets on top of me.

Loads more people keep my show on the road, and I love you all to bits.

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Right now, 2020 beckons. No idea where it will take me. I just can’t plan that far ahead.

But I promise you this, I will fight harder than ever.

You in?

Hope so.

MISSION STATEMENT 2020

Holed-up writing and preparing for a new year and a fresh fight. There are new releases and new projects to run alongside the old ones, but here’s a quick run through where I’m heading.

Three new CDs will land early in 2020.

1. First will be the ‘We Shall Overcome EP’, seven protest covers all raising funds for the new #NotOnOurWatchCampaign (see below). The download is available now as well as the CD on pre-order, but they won’t land in your letterbox until the end of January when they are scheduled for delivery to Solo Towers. The EP features collaborations with Rebekah Findlay, The Hatfield Brigade and Commoners Choir.

2. Hot on its heels will be the reissue of ‘No Pasaran’ with the new artwork by Kevin Pearson which looks STUNNING. There are five bonus tracks and we also have 50 limited edition numbered A4 prints of the sleeve art for those who want it on their wall. There will be a launch gig for this in Hull and details will follow.

3. The new #LithiumJoe single ‘Answer Machine’ will be released in the Spring on CD and download, and potentially vinyl if we can make ends meet. The B-Side will be ‘Forget To Remember’ and ’29 More Stolen Summers’, and we can’t wait to get that out there. Michael Lee Toas has shot footage for a music video and short documentary, so that will be along too.

On the other side of things, the fight just got harder, which means I will have to dig a little deeper just to tread water.

That’s ok. I’m good for it.

We Shall Overcome will continue as before, and we’ll be looking to encourage more people to get involved so that every weekend we are hitting poverty where it hurts and getting help to the front line of need. I will continue to hit the road and head wherever I’m needed to support #WSO2020. Too many people need it.

My gigs will continue to be collection points for food donations, warm clothing parcels for #SocksAppeal, sanitary towels for #PeriodPovertySolidarityCampaign and I will continue with the Pauline Pocket for anyone who would like to get a few quid to The Station Hotel, Ashton Under Lyne for those daily packed lunches.

And the #NotOnOurWatchCampaign is my new battle. It has been launched in response to the people I’ve spoken to, or messaged, who are going without food and heating waiting for wage packets or benefit payments after the money has run out. I’m going to be building a fighting fund to help bridge those gaps for anyone who messages me in trouble. Can’t promise masses, but if £5, £10, £20 will get folks fed and allow them to turn the heating on, then I’ll sort it. Not a loan, not charity, just solidarity in action because that’s what Woody would have done.

So I hope to see you all out there again next year fighting on. I promise to hit every venue and festival that will have me, and to support every benefit gig and picket line I possibly can. The Struggle may have left parliament, but it leaves there bigger, bolder and better than it began and I genuinely believe we are stronger for it.

And f*** it, I’ve got nothing better to do for five years.

You in?

We Shall Overcome EP

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The first of three releases due in the first months of 2020 is the ‘We Shall Overcome EP’.

These seven songs are protest covers and feature Rebekah Findlay on fiddle and vocal, The Hatfield Brigade and Commoners Choir.

I am using this release to raise funds for the new #NotOnOurWatchCampaign which I’ve set up to help people bridge the short term gap if they are running out of money before wage packets or benefit payments arrive.

The songs have mostly passed through the hands of Pete Seeger over the years, but The Men They Couldn’t Hang‘s 1986 classic ‘Ghosts Of Cable Street’ is there too and a massive thank you to Paul Simmonds for his permission to use it for the cause.

You can stream/download the EP here:

https://joesolomusic.bandcamp.com/album/we-shall-overcome-ep

and CD copies will follow in January.

News of the ‘No Pasaran’ reissue, with five bonus tracks, plus the new Lithium Joe single, will follow in the coming weeks.

For now though. Enjoy x