Once, after a show that included Steve Earle, I had an interesting conversation. The gentleman I spoke with disagreed strongly with Earle’s politics, but still enjoyed his music. For as vociferous as Steve can be with his view, this fan appreciated his attention to songcraft. With Songs of Resistance, 1942-2018 (ANTI-/Epitaph), Marc Ribot has made an album of powerfully political music that is musically powerful. Employing a diversity of forms and working with an amazing cast of artists, Ribot delivers one of the year’s best albums.
It’s no mistake that I mentioned Earle, as he appears, with Tift Merritt, on two songs on this record. Other collaborators include Fay Victor, Justin Vivian Bond, Meshell Ndegeocello, Sam Amidon, Tom Waits, Syd Straw, and Ohene Cornelius. With styles ranging from jazz rock to folk to Americana, Ribot’s fantastic guitar playing and arrangements perfectly suit each guest. At heart, though this is a folk album, particularly as evidenced by Ribot’s reworking of traditional songs.
Songs of Resistance is an extremely political album, but never in ways that feel hokey or awkward or uncomfortable. Songs like “Srinivas,” about a Sikh shot by a man who thought he was a Muslim, personalize tragedy and injustice while connecting it to the bigger picture of the Trump presidency. As Steve Earle sings, “Donald Trump loaded the gun.” These songs have important, vital messages. They need to be heard and given deep consideration. Whether you agree with the viewpoint expressed, you will appreciate the musicality of this album, the sterling songwriting, and the passion of the artists involved. Passionate as they are, the artists are controlled and measured, and a reasonable, such that an open but different-minded person could hear and consider their message.
In short, this is simply a fantastic album. I recommend it as strongly as I recommend anything this year. This moving, powerful, and gorgeous record resounds with the deepest truths of the American soul.
Profits from Songs of Resistance will be donated to the Indivisible Project.