Refugees, Violence and Poverty – Political Issues in Current Blues Songs
If you listen to new blues albums, more and more frequently you will find the most up-to-date political and social issues. Or old songs are re-interpreted, with the message still or always up-to-date. Here is small cross-section of current releases.
A deep groove from the Delta, a stoic riff of the guitars, a pearly piano and a story told by different voices. Suddenly one is in the middle in the flight over the Mediterranean. Delta Moon tell the story in “Refugee” from the point of view of the refugees, which you can see briefly in the news, but which hardly ever really reaches to our proximity. “Refugee” is a musically and textually perfect track, a song that you cannot play and hear often enough.
With his latest album “Migration Blues”, Eric Bibb draws the parallels between the escape from the Delta in search of a better life at the beginning of the 20th century and today’s refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. Thus he portrays the simple life in the Delta as well, the consequences of long-standing drought at that time, or praying for a safe coast. Accompanied by the French harp virtuoso Jean-Jaques Milteau and guests like Big Daddy Wilson, an album is created in the sound of the classic Delta blues, which is hardly to be surpassed for realness.
Unless one accesses “Manic Revelations” by songwriter Pokey LaFarge. In the sound of the soul of the ’50s and ’60s, the musician sings about revolts in the USA in the face of increasing police violence, from the escape from the news to the seemingly apolitical country. This comes with a partly intersecting humor, which can make the hardness more bearable.
And here Lafarge is akin to John Nemeth, the Soulblueser, who has been living in Memphis for a number of years. With him, the everyday gun violence in the US comes along in a loose-footed party sound and a call not to let the brains fog, as in the funk of the 60s. “They Never Pay Me” by Gina Sicilia, on the other hand, is musically close to the blues singers of the 1920s, a lament about poverty and social injustice.
Blues was already in its beginnings more than music for the entertainment or the temporary escape from the everyday life with dance. Blues musicians have always told their songs of social issues, of the experience of injustice and violence, but also of the joy of developments for the good. This function of the blues musicians as political and social commentators led to the soul music of the ’50s and ’60s. And then the rappers more and more took over this position. But times such as today lead to the fact that the blues musicians are more aware of their social function. The artists listed here are probably only a part of the current scene, an encouragement to go out on their own to search for songs beyond the pub, dance and love-affair.
We’ve added a new T-shirt to the Delta Moon webstore. We found a low-resolution version of this image of a skull moon breaking out from inside the sun and loved it. So we set out to find the artist and pay him for a printable version. The search, via the Internet, led around the world, and when we finally located the artist, Jack Bloom, he had an Atlanta phone number. After we’d talked and Jack sent a license contract, his street address looked familiar. Believe it or not, he lives in Cabbagetown! Thanks, Jack.
Delta Moon’s Cabbagetown tour of Europe is about to enter its fifth week. So far the guys have played 20 dates in four countries, including a prison show and a live radio broadcast. Now they are taking a welcome break in Berlin for a few days before hitting the road and stage again.
The tour will wind up May 7 in Catania, Sicily. For more information, please see the calendar.
(Photo by Reinhard Pfetsch, Augsburger Allgemeine.)
Delta Moon’s Cabbagetown has jumped from Number 24 to Number 8 on the Roots Music Report’s Blues Chart this week. Not to brag, but — well, okay, to brag a little — the Blues Song Chart has four of our songs in the Top Twenty: “21st Century Man” at Number 6, “Rock and Roll Girl” at Number 7, “Just Lucky I Guess” at Number 10 and “Refugee” at Number 17. And, to top things off nicely, in the Top 50 Chart for our home state of Georgia Cabbagetown is Number One.