Monday, December 16, 2013

Album Review: NC Music Love Army - We Are Not For Sale

If you’ve been missing the energy of Moral Mondays, its spirit is alive and well in the new compilation of protest songs from the NC Music Love Army.

We Are Not For Sale works on both functional and aesthetic levels. From the functional perspective, the album works as a historical document of the events and attitudes that surrounded Moral Mondays. Several songs reference the actual names of bills and politicians (“Abraham Lincoln In His Grave” by Billy Sugarfix is particularly effective at using these references comedically). These details sharpen the edges of the songs and make them actual tools of protest rather than novelties. The melodies here can be easily picked up by a group. This is music that can be used in protest.

Aesthetically, We Are Not For Sale is an enjoyable album to listen to. The simple song structures and singable melodies share a lot with gospel. The songs are build to appeal to a wide audience. If politics could be put aside, the sounds of these songs would appeal to a lot of listeners. M.C. Taylor’s “Every Knee Shall Bow” is the song most focused on aesthetic over function. M.C. Taylor completists will definitely want this one in their collection as it’s one of the top non-Hiss Golden Messenger songs Taylor has recorded this year.

The songs that best balance function and aesthetics are “We Rise” by Rhiannon Giddens and “My Body Politic” by Caitlin Cary and Shirlette Ammons. Both songs are powerful protests against the core issue of women being treated as second class citizens through discriminatory policy.

The energetic organ and saxophone on “My Body Politic” lift the main chorus into a exuberant declaration: “We did not elect your body. We do not accept your body. This house is not my body. Ain’t nobody left for you.”

The a cappella “We Rise” exposes the power of voices in chorus. It’s spine tingling as the song turns into a round with several voices swirling and singing, “We rise!”

All of the songs on We Are Not For Sale are appealing in their own way and make it easy to recommend the compilation to most folks. This is one of the most important North Carolina records to come out in 2013 (or any year) and deserves to be shared.

We Are Not For Sale is available now.

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