Danny Kroha (The Gories) Announces Solo Album ‘Detroit Blues’ on Third Man Records

Danny Kroha, founding member of Detroit minimal garage rock trio The Gories, is excited to announce his sophomore solo album Detroit Blues, due February 5, 2021 via Third Man Records. Limited edition turquoise vinyl will be available at TMR storefronts and select indie stores in the US & UK on release day.

Photo courtesy of Zack Kraimer

The album is largely comprised of Kroha’s interpretations of traditional folk, blues and gospel songs from the public domain, created with an assortment of anachronistic DIY instruments like the one-string washtub bass, jug bass and The Diddley Bow.

Kroha has recently been spending time learning and recording more traditional folk, blues, and gospel tunes from the public domain. His upcoming Detroit Blues could be considered part two of his debut solo LP, Angels Watching Over Me

In his own words, “It was me in a room playing acoustic instruments and doing my own arrangements of some old songs.” 

Not so fast, buddy! When you hear this record and dig a little deeper into the facts, you’ll have a heightened awareness of the sonic beauty found in the simplicity. On many of these traditional songs, Danny dropped, added or rearranged verses from various sources, mixing up music from one song and words from another creating his own amalgamation of early blues and country.

Keep your ears peeled for familiar and wild homemade sounds. There’s a DIY one-string washtub bass made from a fire snake rail-heater that can found on some railroad tracks. There’s a lot of jug bass, blowing the bass notes over the jug opening, frequently heard in early rural American music but also with the 13th Floor Elevators, who ran their jug through an amplifier.

The one string guitar, aka The Diddley Bow, on “Come Out Of The Wilderness” is rare. Aside from Danny, one of the last times we heard one was on One String Sam’s “I Need A Hundred Dollars.” You have your traditional assortment of washboards, tambourine and other percussion instruments, but during one session, Danny and the album supervisor tried out several pairs of Danny’s work boots to find the best tone for the foot stomps. We’ll report back soon on what brand was chosen. 

Instead of following all the rules rooted in early blues and old time country, Danny Kroha mixed up all the traditions and kicked out a new old sound that could really only happen in Detroit: “I listen to both genres, for sure. I just wasn’t TRYING to make a record that sounds like that. It just came out more like a field recording than a studio recording.”

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Poor Howard

Detroit Blues

I’ll Be Rested

Way Down In Florida On A Hog

Oh Death

Reuben, Oh Reuben

Come Out The Wilderness

Leavin’ Blues

Little Lulie

Adam and Eve

Rich Girl, Poor Girl

Run Johnny

House of the Rising Sun

Up Above My Head



Lumineers Drummer Jeremiah Fraites Makes Solo Run With New Album ‘Piano Piano’

As the drummer and co-founder for indie folk rock band The Lumineers, Jeremiah Fraites has co-written songs such as “Ho Hey,” the debut single that brought the band international fame in 2012. On January 22, Fraites will reveal another side of his musicianship when he releases Piano Piano, his debut solo album (out on Dualtone Records). As the title suggests, the songs on this release are piano-based instrumentals.

Prior to the album’s release, Fraites is premiering the track “Chilly” here at American Songwriter.

“I think that it’s a part of me that not a lot of people might be aware of,” Fraites tells American Songwriter, though he adds, “With the Lumineers, there’s been some little hints that I really love the piano,” such as the tracks “Patience” and “April,” which are both instrumental piano pieces.

Although Fraites has been through three album releases with The Lumineers (most recently in 2019 with III), all of which were met with significant chart success and critical praise, he admits that releasing work under his own name is a new experience. “It feels massively different than releasing a Lumineers LP,” he says. “This was my first solo project—the first time I was going to release something without the safety net and protection of The Lumineers, so it was kind of scary, in a way. But [I’m] excited, too.”

Piano Piano has been a long time coming: Fraites says he first started writing some of these songs a dozen years ago. As he wrote material that didn’t seem right for The Lumineers, he set it aside and began thinking of doing a solo album—but between his band work and becoming a father a couple of years ago, it never seemed like the right time to do it. That changed when the pandemic forced The Lumineers to cancel the remainder of their 2020 world tour dates.

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“I got home [to Denver] in the middle of March and tried to understand how long we were actually going to be home, and when it became apparent that days were going to turn into weeks and weeks into months, my wife Francesca was like, ‘You know, I think you should really do your solo album now,’” Fraites says.

Even though he finally had the time to do the album, Fraites admits that he still resisted getting started on it. “I was sort of like, ‘I don’t want to do it in the house. It’s going to be crazy: we have a two-year-old. We have a dog who likes to bark when I play the piano.’ There was a house literally being built right next door.”

Finally, Fraites relented and began working on the album. To start things off, “I really sat down and thought, ‘What do I want the album to sound and feel like?’ Because I think that’s really important before you start recording: you should have a decent idea of what you want the album not only to sonically sound like, but emotionally, what do you want it to feel like?”

With Piano Piano, Fraites says, “I wanted it, at times, to feel like you’re right there next to me on the piano bench, and other times I wanted it to feel like you’re watching a movie with no name, really high-fidelity quality.”

Fraites says he is especially pleased with how his musical vision came out on “Chilly,” which he wrote while on tour with The Lumineers. “I remember finding these chords and going, ‘Well, I think that’s beautiful,’” Fraites says of the song. He immediately recorded the melody in a voice memo. “I recorded it as quickly as the idea came. It’s crazy that quite literally a life-changing idea can happen in a matter of seconds, so you’d just better have your phone handy to record it.”

The spaciousness in “Chilly” is, Fraites says, entirely intentional. “I’ve always been attracted to music when I hear big spaces. The composer John Cage, who I think is a genius, talked about this idea of, ‘Don’t interpret space as a negative.’ What I took away from that quote was, don’t interpret [silence] as, ‘Well, you didn’t know what to write; you didn’t know what to put in that space.’ It’s more, think of it as an intentional positive void.”

Fraites feels “Chilly” captures this ideal, as it “reminds me of the epitome of minimalism, the epitome of really trying to find a simple idea and moving and expanding and letting it evolve very slowly. I think honestly it’s my favorite track on the album currently,” he says.

This same level of thought and care went into aspects of the album beyond the music itself. “Without lyrics to guide the themes, I think the song titles meant a lot to me and I really spent time making sure they were just right,” Fraites says. “Even the album title Piano Piano has a lot of meaning to it,” he adds, explaining that his wife Francesca, who’s from Italy, told him how the word “piano” has multiple meanings in her native language. “So in Italian, if they say ‘piano piano,’ it means ‘little by little.’ I thought was so quirky and cool,” Fraites says.

The album title’s meaning also perfectly summed up the way in which Fraites approached this project. “I really tried to have patience with the album and little by little construct it, instead of trying to force these songs out of me,” he says. “I really tried to make sure that I was almost having them transmitted to me and I just needed to get them down.”

While writing songs comes relatively easily for Fraites, recording them on his own was initially problematic. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented him from working in a recording studio, so he had to learn about home recording for the first time. “The biggest struggle in the beginning was setting up the microphones,” he says.

Fraites credits David Baron, who has previously worked with Vance Joy and Shawn Mendes, with helping him figure out the correct way to do things. “I worked a lot with David, who co-engineered and co-produced the album from Woodstock, New York,” Fraites says. “We would FaceTime and I would record a piano take and he would say, ‘What the hell is that crazy truck [noise] in the background?’ [I’d say,] ‘I am so sorry, that’s the house being built next door.’ He was like, ‘Holy cow.’ It was pretty crazy. It was a lot of stress, a lot of me not knowing what the hell I was doing.”

Learning recording techniques is just the latest music-related skill that Fraites has mastered: he began learning to play drums and piano when he was growing up in New Jersey. His family encouraged his interest in music (his parents, brother, and grandmother could all play instruments). While he would go on to find fame as a drummer, Fraites recalls that piano music was a big early influence on him: “I fell in love with Beethoven’s songs, particularly his sonatas. So it’s been deeply ingrained in my musical background, the piano.”

Since then, Fraites says, “My passion, my obsession, for music never really waned. Even eight or nine years ago, when I was a busboy at a sushi restaurant in Denver before [The Lumineers] made it, I still was a musician—I just wasn’t a successful one. I really think, had we found success or not, I always would have been obsessed with music.”

Fortunately, Fraites did become successful with The Lumineers, and now Piano Piano reveals more facets of his talents. “I think it was one of the best things I’ve ever done,” he says of this solo album. “It’s actually something to look forward to for me. I’m excited it’s coming out!”

PHOTO BY: Roberto Graziano Moro

‘The Box’ Was the Song of 2020

When we look back on 2020, many sounds will come to mind. The 7 p.m. cheers for frontline workers, Patti Labelle and Gladys Knight’s voices mingling together, the deafening silence of existential unraveling. But perhaps most of all, it will be “Eeh-uhrr.”

“The Box,” Roddy Ricch’s unrelentingly popular, unrelentingly squeaky breakout hit, takes Number One on Rolling Stone’s Year-End Top 100 Songs chart, pulling in 866 million on-demand audio streams in 2020. Proving that sometimes it isn’t so much what the words mean as the way they squeak out, like a cat toy or an old door, “The Box” clobbered any other song in 2020 by more than 750,000 song units and 210 million streams.

While the song rose to the top early — reaching Number One on the weekly RS 100 in the first week of the year and going on to spend 10 nonconsecutive weeks there — it proved hard to beat as the months rolled by: No song was able to eclipse it by year’s end. (The only one that came close was DaBaby’s “Rockstar,” which features Roddy Ricch; that single managed to tie “The Box” with 10 weeks at Number One.)

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Taking second on the year-end RS 100 is the Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights,” which saw 5.7 million units in 2020. “Rockstar” and Drake and Future’s “Life Is Good” follow at Numbers Three and Four. Rounding out the Top Five is Kentucky-born rapper Jack Harlow, who was one of the biggest breakthrough artists of 2020. His piano trap breakout “Whats Poppin” pulled in 4.6 million units in 2020.

The Rolling Stone Top 100 chart tracks the most popular songs of the week in the United States. Songs are ranked by song units, a number that combines audio streams and song sales using a custom weighting system. The chart does not include passive listening like terrestrial radio or digital radio. The Rolling Stone Top 100 chart covers streams and sales from January 3rd, 2020, through December 31st, 2020.

The Top 10 is, at it tends to be, hip-hop heavy, including two back-to-back Megan Thee Stallion songs: “Savage” at Number Six and her Cardi B collaboration “WAP” at Number Seven. Four years after its initial release, Brooklyn rapper Saint JHN’s “Roses” takes Number Nine thanks to producer Imanbek’s sticky remix, while Post Malone’s “Circles,” released in September 2019, sticks around at Number 10.

But a country newcomer manages to break through the top 10, as Gabby Barrett’s “I Hope” takes Number Eight with 3.6 million units. Overall, like on the year-end RS 200, country makes a stronger showing on this year’s RS 100 compared to 2019. Overall, 14 country songs make this year’s chart, compared to last year’s 11. Established streaming star Luke Combs has two songs on the chart, with “Beautiful Crazy” and “Beer Never Broke My Heart” taking 61 and 78. And up-and-comer Morgan Wallen  launches three songs onto the year-end tally with “Chasin You” (Number 29), “Whiskey Glasses” (Number 48), and “More Than My Hometown” (Number 71). Overall, country saw a 19-percent increase in on-demand audio streams in 2020, more than the overall increase of 16 percent.

And 43 years after its release, Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” rides a wave of Ocean Spray Cran-Raspberry juice to the year-end RS 100. After being featured in a viral TikTok video, the Rumours hit reached Number 64 on the RS 100 this summer. All told, “Dreams” saw 1.9 million song units in 2020.

Lil Baby, Pop Smoke, Juice WRLD and Post Malone tie for the most songs on the year-end RS 100, with four each. Post Malone’s biggest song of the year was “Circles,” at Number 10. Pop Smoke’s “For the Night” takes Number 17, while Lil Baby’s “Sum 2 Prove” finishes at Number 31 and Juice WRLD’s Marshmello collaboration “Come & Go” takes 51st.

See the full year-end RS 100 here.

BB King’s Bluesville Announces 2020 Year End Rack List

Bluesville chooses fifteen songs to match the number of pool balls in a “rack.” It all has to do with Low-Fi’s Bar and Pool Hall in the imaginary community of Bluesville, of which BB King is the perpetual mayor, and the Blues Foundation is the new power-generating station

Listen: Al Green Shares First Recording in 10 Years with Freddy Fender’s ‘Before The Next Teardrop Falls’

Singer-songwriter and record producer Al Green has released a cover of “Before The Next Teardrop Falls,” most famously recorded by Freddy Fender.

Reverend Green first recorded the song with Matt Ross-Spang in 2018, ten years after 2008’s Lay It Down. With his signature soul, he reshapes the original (sung bilingually by Mexican-American country singer Fender). Organ player Charles Hodges returns for this track — his first time playing with Al Green since the ’80s.

“As a lifelong Memphian, I’ve always been a massive fan of Al Green and his producer Willie Mitchell,” Ross-Spang said in 2018. Continuing, “Together they created some of the most enduring soul music. Sonically speaking, Willie and Al also really invented a distinct sound that separated them from Stax or Motown.

“When Al arrived at the studio he was already incredibly warm and gracious, but he really became animated and enthusiastic when we all started recording the song live in the room,” Ross-Spang said. “His passion and voice are just as strong as when he first found them as a young man.”

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*Feature image credit: Philippe Merle/Getty Images

‘Lady A’ Anita White Shouts Out Margo Price, Chris Stapleton in ‘My Name Is All I Got’

Anita White, the Seattle blues singer who performs under the name Lady A, has released a new song about her legal battle with a Nashville country-music trio over use of the name. “My Name Is All I Got” is a rhythmic, stomp-and-clap blues song that finds White detailing the hardships she’s faced in 2020.

“Yes, they tried to take my name/but my name is all I got,” she sings in a defiant call-and-response chorus, before growling about how “they keep trying to make me insane.” It’s an emotional performance, as if the weight White has shouldered for the past few months is inspiring, not hindering, her. “I’ve come too far to turn around,” she promises.

Near the end of the song, White offers a few ad-libbed words of appreciation. She thanks Margo Price for publicly stating back in July, while onstage at the Grand Ole Opry, that “the real Lady A” should be invited play the Opry — “That’s what true allyship looks like,” White says. She also shouts out Chris Stapleton for saying that black lives matter during a CBS interview and evokes the words of Bettye Lavette: “She said, you take our culture, our music, our artistry…leave us our name.”

In September, the solo artist White filed a countersuit against Grammy-winning trio Lady A, who changed their name from Lady Antebellum in the summer and subsequently sued White over the rights to the name. White is asking for unspecified compensatory damages, a royalty fee for music sales and performances under the Lady A mark and payment for infringing the Lady A name.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman With Otis Photo Matt Marshall
Gregg Allman lovingly petting his dog Otis.

With the death of founding Allman Brother Gregg Allman on May 27th, 2017 the world lost a musical figure of almost mythic proportions. Filled with the blues, Allman endured tragedy, enjoyed glory, and played some of the best music of the 20th century. Here are ten things you may not know about the man.

1. Gregg Allman inspired Duane Allman to play slide guitar – an event that would make him one of the best and most sought after slide players in his tragically short life.

Duane was spending his 22nd birthday nursing a cold and an elbow injury that he blamed on his younger brother cold. Gregg stopped by his house and dropped off two birthday presents: A bottle of Coricidin decongestant and a copy of Taj Mahal’s debut album. Within two hours, Duane had washed the label off the bottle and was using it as a slide to play along with “Statesboro Blues

2. Allman’s grasp of the blues came from personal tragedy. His father was murdered in a robbery the day after Christmas, 1949. Gregg had just turned two a few days prior. Years later, while working through issues with a record label, he contemplated suicide.

When The Allman Brothers were at the very top of their game, Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident. Gregg was 23. Just over a year later, bassist Barry Oakley also died in a motorcycle accident. Allman was forced to channel his frustration, stress, and anger into one of the most guttural, and recognizable voices in blues history.

3. Gregg Allman shot himself in the foot — on purpose. Both of the brothers Allman were against the war in Vietnam, and both had terrible memories of military school.

Duane was exempt from the draft, but at 18, Gregg was eligible. One afternoon in 1965, Duane came up with an idea to keep his younger brother out of the military. They got liquored up at their home in Daytona Beach, Florida, Duane invited some girls over, and they threw a “Foot Shootin’ Party”. Gregg drank heavily, drew a target on his moccasin, drank a bit more, called an ambulance, and then shot himself in the foot. The next day, he limped into the recruiter’s office and got a medical exemption.

4. The Allman Brothers got Jimmy Carter elected. While Carter was Governor of Georgia, he became friends with Gregg and the band, often appearing at their local shows. When he decided to run for president, he didn’t pull much financial backing. It was then that Capricorn Records founder Phil Walden gathered his artists, including The Allman Brothers, and did fundraising shows.

Incredibly effective, they raised over $800,000 for the campaign. Without that funding, Carter had a slim chance of even getting through the primaries. As a thank you gesture, Gregg was invited to share the first meal the Carter’s served in the White House. Not only that, but they ate in the residence portion, where most folks aren’t even allowed.

5. A known addict, Allman was threatened with a grand jury indictment if he didn’t testify against his dealer. He did, but it wasn’t that simple. The dealer, in this instance, was also the band’s road manager, Scooter Herring, who had, more than once, saved Allman from an overdose. Herring received a 75 year sentence, which was later reduced to 30 months. The damage, however, had already been done. His bandmates, and others, considered him a snitch, and in 1976 the band officially broke up.

6. Gregg Allman began recording solo albums 1973. In those days, his solo work was much more soulful than bluesy. In the 80s, his work ran more toward a blues-rock feel, while his 2011 release, Low Country Blues, finally revealed a true Bluesman. The album is made up almost entirely of blues standards, covered by Allman and select special guests including Dr. John, Doyle Bramhall II, and T Bone Burnett. It also garnered him a Grammy nomination for Best Blues Album that year.

‘Laid Back’ – 1973

7. The movie Almost Famous has ties to the Allman Brothers. The film was written and directed by Cameron Crowe, who was a teenage writer for Rolling Stone Magazine, and traveled with several bands including The Allman Brothers, while they toured. He used the combined antics of those groups to create the fictional group Stillwater for the film.

The scene in which the lead singer jumps off a rooftop in Topeka, Kansas into a swimming pool, was taken from Duane Allman pulling the same stunt off a three-story Travelodge in San Francisco. Gregg and Dickey Betts also pulled a prank on Crowe, telling him that contract clauses would not allow his story to be published, just before the Rolling Stone deadline.

8. Gregg Allman was married seven times. Three of those before his 30th birthday. He also fathered five children. Three from marriages, and two (his eldest, and youngest) from relationships that did not involve marital vows. Three of his children, Devon, Elijah, and Layla, followed in their father’s footsteps, becoming not only musicians, but lead singers in various groups.

9. Arguably most famous for playing at the Fillmore East, Gregg and company did many more shows at New York’s Beacon Theatre. Between September, 1989, when they played their first gig there, until their final farewell on October 28th, 2014, they played more than 200 times at the historic venue. Their annual spring appearances ranged between 8 and 19 nights per year.

‘My Cross to Bear’ – 2012

10.  In January, 1995, Gregg made the conscious decision to quit drinking. Alcohol had fueled not only the Allman Brothers, but most of the Southern Rock bands of the day. At this point, Gregg wrote in his autobiography that he was drinking at least a fifth of vodka per day.

He went on a five day bender while in New York for the band’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. While intending a heartfelt acceptance speech including thanks to his mother, and Fillmore manager, Bill Graham, what came out was somewhat more abridged. “This is for my brother – my mentor,” he said, then promptly left the stage. Watching footage of it later was the incentive he needed to quit. In-home nurses were hired, and worked in 12-hour shifts to help him kick his booze habit.

Celebrating 60 Years of Arhoolie Records with Livestream ft. Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, Billy Gibbons, etc.

Before this exceptional year is out, we’re taking some time to celebrate an important milestone for Smithsonian Folkways: the 60th anniversary of Arhoolie Records! The venerable label released its first recording (Mance Lipscomb‘s Texas Songster)  back in 1960, starting a decades long journey through the rich musical traditions of North, Central, and South America. If you got the blues, chances are Arhoolie’s got ’em, too. Ready to two-step to some zydeco? We’ll get you dancing! Maybe you’re in the in the mood for a fandango — whichever style of “down home” music your curious ears desire, you’ll be sure to find it on Arhoolie. Explore this historic catalog on our new Arhoolie website, which contains stunning photographs, behind-the-scenes reminiscences, and extensive discographies.

But that’s not all! Tune in for a star-studded livestream event celebrating Arhoolie’s anniversary featuring Taj MahalRy CooderBeauSoleilBonnie RaittCharlie Musselwhitethe Del McCoury Band, ZZ Top’s Billy GibbonsLos Texmaniacs, and more! The concert will air on YouTube on December 10th at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. Other performers include Los Tigres del Norte, Savoy Family Band, La Marisoul, Cedric Watson, and the Campbell Brothers.

Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways

Arhoolie founder Chris Strachwitz has made it his life’s work to seek out the music he loved. In 60 years, he has steered clear of pop music and gravitated towards the vernacular music of communities around the United States and Mexico. And now you can access much of this incredible collection on Bandcamp. It’s easy to say that Chris took various genres of music which previously only could be found on small local record labels and used Arhoolie to distribute these musics worldwide.

The popularity nationwide of cajun and zydeco nationwide since the late 70s can be traced right back to the wonderful albums Chris released. He used a network of music scholars to turn him on to new sounds. Also involved with many films, he established a longstanding collaboration with Les Blank, Maureen Gosling and Flower Films bringing some of the wonderful music he found to the screen. But don’t take our word for it, go check out the new Arhoolie website and immerse yourself in 60 years of down home, hand-made tunes from your favorite artists.

*Feature image courtesy of Bonnie Raitt’s Facebook page

UK Singer-Songwriter and Multi-Instrumentalist Sean Taylor Releases the Most Pivotal Album of his 20-Year Career

Sean Taylor is the ultimate road warrior whose inspirational, genre-defying music for the past 20 years has been inseparable from his life as a political activist, peace and justice campaigner. Sean’s recent highly acclaimed Live in London album confirmed his credentials as one of the most influential and gifted musicians of his generation.

Blues has its roots in voices that refused to be silenced by oppression, including slavery and segregation — music which expresses basic human feelings of suffering and injustice. To this extent, Taylor is the consummate bluesman who has fearlessly spoken out about contemporary scandals including homelessness, disasters like Grenfell and what he believes to be the sad, broken state of a dystopian England.  

On Lockdown (Sean Taylor Songs), Sean’s frustrations and anger during nine months of isolation in a world turned upside down surface more passionately than ever before.

“Because we are fighting for our lives, now is the time to take sides. No more scapegoats. We are all complicit in our staged democracy. More people have died from coronavirus in the UK than any other country in Europe. The UK and America have been at the forefront of this failure of capitalism. The impact of Black Lives Matter, and climate justice campaigns, and Free Palestine movements challenge the establishment, offering hope and resistance. In this time of economic and political unrest, minorities become the common enemy and are used as scapegoats.”

Seven out of the ten tracks, mainly recorded at home, are political spoken word pieces from Taylor who plays guitars and electric piano accompanied by Austin, Texas producer and collaborator Mark Hallman on drums, bass and Hammond organ. The first of these is “Herd Immunity Part 1” with its eerie repetition of the slogan, “Stay Alert/Die Quietly/Don’t Complain.”

With its metronomic drumbeat backing, “The March Is On” deals with the impact of environmental destruction particularly on the poorest, “creating a global mass movement of planetary defenders/From Extinction Rebellion to First Nation Warriors.” Despite its somber piano accompaniment, “No Borders” portrays a world where refugees are welcome and diversity is celebrated. “Fear is the prison that holds us/Racism is the poison that divides us.” It may be a monologue, but Sean delivers the chorus lines of “Beauty in diversity/ Beauty in who we are”‘ with emotional depth. 

The positive side of lockdown is evident in a glorious solo rendition of “Moonlight Sonata,” Taylor having learned to play classical piano during his time at home. Next up is another atmospheric spoken word track, “Black Lives Matter,” with its anti-racist mantra: “How many worlds will you shatter/Before you realize Black Lives Matter.” The words of Angela Davis ring out to the sound of the piercing electric piano and guitar notes: “If they come for me in the morning they will come for you in the night.”

Sandwiched between the spoken word tracks  “Palestine” and “Herd Immunity Part 2,” Beethoven’s “Für Elise” is the second beautifully played classical piano piece. A piano and percussion instrumental, “Lockdown” precedes the finale, “Free To Do,” which takes on the corporate social media giants or “emperors of tyranny.” The haunting, screaming saxophone of Joe Morales adds drama and intensity to the message, “Log In/You are free to do as we tell you.”

Taylor’s relentless expression of strong and challenging views across such a wide range of global issues will generate many types of responses and opinions. Lockdown is not an album for the faint-hearted, and listeners will find it dark or uplifting, or both, depending on their own experiences and perspectives.

Above all, this ground-breaking piece of music cannot be ignored as it demands a response, forcing people to confront the bigger picture of humankind and society today — and to decide where they stand in relation to what they see. These factors ensure Lockdowns status as an intriguing, historically significant and much talked about album of this decade and beyond. What shines like a beacon throughout is Sean’s sincerity and strong commitment to his pursuit of truth, and the expansive lyrical and music creativity involved in communicating his principles with such potency and clarity.

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See Haim, Jack Johnson, Feist Cover Cat Stevens Classics

Haim, Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews and Feist were among the artists cover Yusuf/Cat Stevens classics as part of Saturday’s CatSong Festival, a livestream celebrating the 50th anniversary reissues of the singer-songwriter’s 1970 albums Tea for the Tillerman and Mona Bone Jakon.

Incubus’ Brandon Boyd, James Morrison, Passenger, Matt Sweeney and Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Sad13, Ron Sexsmith, Imelda May and more also took part in the two-and-a-half hour virtual fest.

Jack Johnson opened the mostly acoustic show with a rendition of “Where Do The Children Play?,” which was followed by the Haim sisters’ “Hard Headed Woman.” Feist tackled the Mona Bone Jakon classic “Trouble,” while Matthews delivered a solo take of Tea for the Tillerman’s “Father and Son.”

“It’s great to see and hear these covers of my songs given new life,” Yusuf/Cat Stevens said of CatSong in a statement. “There’s no better honor for a songwriter than to have his songs performed by talented musicians with such love and sincerity. Thank you.”

The Tea for the Tillerman and Mona Bone Jakon album reissues — which include 24 unearthed recordings as well as discs full of demos, alternate takes, outtakes, live recordings, and more — are out now.

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