That's really pretty much how this album was conceived. We talked about celebrating the Wobblies. We talked about anarchism and unions. We talked about revolution in all its flavors. I like revolution. But when I think about it, I think of the peaceful, harmonious anarchist revolution that Julian Beck spoke and wrote toward. I don’t think that’s what the International Workers of the World had in mind. I wanted to explore that. I also wondered what other folks thought. So I picked out some musicians and writers I admire and told them I was going to put this album together. I said it was a commemoration of the Wobblies, but they could take the theme—revolution—and respond to it any way they wanted. Just keep what you do focused on works that are either in the public domain or original. Mostly it went that way.
I got some terrific stuff. Barbara Colaciello’s dramatic readings of excerpts from the writings of Emma Goldman are wondrous. Under the titles “My Beautiful Ideal” and “Free Love,” they are just as relevant today as ever. And there’s a rollicking version of a Joe Hill’s “The Preacher and the Slave” by The Allegheny Bilge Rats Shanty Choir. Every time I listen to it, I say to myself, this is my favorite band in the world right now.
Writer Janice Eidus takes on a Joe Hill song, too. She recites the lyrics of “Mr. Block” as though she’s reading a children’s story. It comes alive in a whole new way because of that. It’s really quite striking and powerful.
Joe Hill, executed labor organizer and songwriter, gets one more treatment on this album. My son, Noah, and I dig into his “Dump the Bosses of Your Back” as Jarfly. We managed to record it pretty quickly before he headed to college for the first time. It was a good way send him off.
When Chuck Glicksman of THE CURRENT (with Eddie Karp and Joseph Anastasi) asked if a cover of Neil Young’s Charlie Manson-inspired “Revolution Blues” would be okay, considering it was outside my guidelines, I said, “Sure, what the hell.” I’m glad I did. These guys call up some bloody fountains. Sometimes, one must take rifles and bloody fountains into account, and they do it in spades.
Two tracks on the album are originals by a couple of my favorite Jacksonville-based songwriters. With the help of some friends and apropos of the political moment, Mark Williams sears through “Witch Hunts” with a good dollop of righteous anger. What’s a revolution without that? And finally, there’s the poetic narrative of Roy Peak’s “All the Birds of Carmelita." Just Roy and his guitar and a great song. I love it so well, I placed it at the end of the album. This was the note I wanted to end on. Perfect.
Everyone who contributed on this album has my gratitude. Coe Douglas has my thanks, too, for the cover design and the initial question that set this project in motion. I couldn’t be happier with the result. I’m honored to share it with you.
Mark Ari, October 2016
released October 24, 2016
Editing and production by Mark Ari
Cover design by Coe Douglas