Ever since Donald Trump ascended to the presidency of the United States, the word “resistance” has resonated with newfound ferocity among the country’s political left. Ace guitarist Marc Ribot echoes this in his gripping new disc, Songs of Resistance 1942-2018.
Songs of Resistance 1942-2018 absorbs some of that fury, then channels it through a wider historical arc by including songs associated with War World II and the ’60s Civil Rights Movement.
In addition to brilliant interpretations of tunes such as “We Are Soldiers in the Army,” “Bella Ciao (Goodbye Beautiful),” and “We’ll Never Turn Back,” the disc includes provocative originals such as the country-inflected “Srinivas,” a song addressing the murder of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a Sikh immigrant who was shot because he was mistaken for being a Muslim; the rollicking “Knock That Statue Down,” which chronicles the toppling of many U.S. Confederate statues after 2017’s deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia; and the funky “John Brown,” a searing ode to an 18-century American abolitionist who fought valiantly and violently against slavery.
Not a protest; a resistance
When asked what criteria he used for choosing the songs, Ribot states that he wanted songs that would resonate in the here and now. And he makes a clear distinction between protest songs and songs of resistance. “A protest song recognizes the legitimacy of a power to which it appeals. It’s calling on the king, president or congress to change something. A song of resistance does not recognize the legitimacy of the power it is singing about,” he explains.
Breathing life into the songs is a motley crew of special guests that includes Tom Waits, Meshell Ndgeocello, Fay Victor, Steve Earle, Syd Straw. “I’ve sung all of these songs, but my voice is kind of an acquired taste,” Ribot laughs. “So, I thought if I really wanted people to listen to it, I should get people on it that actually sing for a living.”
Songs of Resistance also comes loaded with an impressive lineup of instrumentalists that includes drummer Ches Smith, trombonist Curtis Fowlkes and tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis. Ribot didn’t just want hired guns for the project; he insisted on incorporating their insight into the material.
For instance, Ribot’s lyrics for “Srinivas” originally named the murderer. But Earle argued against it. “Steve said, ‘That guy is just some moron who got excited by listening to a lot of politicians then woke up in jail saying, “What the hell have I’ve done?” Keep the finger pointed at the ones who set it up: Donald Trump.’ I realized that Steve was totally right,” Ribot recalls.
Ribot remembers listening to socially-conscious music before he was even a teenager, learning to play Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” on the guitar. “I had gotten the sheet music for it. The lyrics were so angry, but I related to them as a 12-year-old growing up during the Vietnam War.”
As feisty as these songs are, Ribot sees them more as comforters for the resistance rather than converters of the political right. “I’m not sure if any of these tunes will change anybody’s mind. What they can do is cheer people up and give courage to those already in the fight,” he explains. “The resistance needs to hear songs like these to feel like we are not alone.”
Marc Ribot, Songs of Resistance 1942-2018 (Anti/Epitaph)
CERAMIC DOG European Tour :
- 11.25.2018 – Katowice (Poland)
- 11.26.2018 – Palac Akropolis, Prague (Czech Republic)
- 11.26.2018 – De Spot, Middelburg (Netherlands)
- 11.29.2018 – The Central House of Artists, Moscow (Russia)
- 11.30.2018 – Lyon (France)
- 12.03.2018 – Control Club, Bucarest (Romania)
- 12.04.2018 – Handelsbeurs Concertzaal, Gent (Belgium)
- 12.05.2018 – Bimhuis, Amsterdam (Netherlands)
- 12.06.2018 – Elbphilharmonie Kleiner Saal, Hamburg (Germany)
- 12.07.2018 – Altes Kino Ebergsberg, München (Germany)
- 12.08.2018 – Köln (Germany)