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You’re not going to change the world by singing a song…words of a rational person who doesn’t see the world through rose-colored glasses - or words of a cynical person who fails to see the power a song can bring?

 When you look back in history songs and music have so often been a vital part of oppressed peoples’ striving for freedom and equality.  And if there were no danger or threat felt by the oppressor why then were so many protest singers extradited, jailed or murdered?

Kim and Reggie Harris have been singing and playing music together these past thirty years.  Their music has always had an element of social commentary and activism, and their new CD Get On Board!  is the second volume of a themed collection of Underground Railroad & Civil Rights Freedom Songs. 

The Underground Railroad was a network of sympathizers who in the pre-Civil War years helped slaves escape and provided shelter and aid for runaway slaves.  Kim and Reggie Harris point to the dual purposes, which many of the gospel spirituals had in that besides giving slaves a sense of hope and faith in freedom, they also carried encoded messages such as an imminent attempt of escape.  

This album is full of great traditional African American spirituals, the arrangement of voices are constantly bringing new shades to the songs, and a fine instrumental backing adds without ever becoming intrusive.  The Harris’ have on this album guests such as Danny Glover, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Guy Davis, Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer, Rev. Robert B. Jones,Sr., Baby Jay, Matt and Marshall Jones and Magpie (Terry Leonino and Greg Artzner)  

There are so many good songs on this album, Get On Board, Down by the Riverside, Rise Up Shepherd and Follow just to mention a few…  My partner goes into a delirium over the banjo picking in track eight Ballad of the Underground Railroad… and my favourite song is the beautiful version of Oh Mary, don’t You Weep…even just those first few notes are to die for.

I wouldn’t normally recommend websites but this one is different –  It doesn’t just sell the CDs but it’s also intelligent and full of interesting and educational material!  Yes, by the way, I’m one of those people wearing rose-coloured glasses…but I’m not the only one.

Pernille Rutzou
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This album was reviewed in Issue 73 of The Living Tradition magazine.