It’s early evening in mid-August as 2,000 to 3,000 protesters gather in Marshall Park for Charlotte’s first Moral Monday demonstration. Local singer-songwriter Jon Lindsay steps onstage, following speaker the Rev. Kojo Nantambu – president of Charlotte’s NAACP – to perform “Dear Mr. McCrory,” a gentle folk-pop song in which he calls Charlotte’s former mayor “a hitman for the GOP” and a “poster child champion for the voices of hate.”
“I was still finishing it walking up to the podium, but people in the crowd already had signs with the lyrics to the chorus. It was amazing,” says Lindsay.
The song was inspired by the Rev. William Barber’s “This Is the Day” speech, which Lindsay witnessed during Moral Monday in Raleigh.
“The speech/song is simply about being on the wrong (or right) side of history. The day Rev. Barber gave that speech in Raleigh was the day the Love Army debuted our full lineup, and (we) performed at Kings Barcade that night after the rally. The Rev. came to our show, got up onstage, gave a great short speech and then danced onstage to the music.”
Lindsay and NC Music Love Army co-founder Caitlin Cary aren’t known as protest singers, but both spent the summer devoted to the Moral Monday cause. In July they assembled an esteemed collection of N.C. musicians from varied genres – the aforementioned NC Music Love Army – to write and record traditional protest songs. They’ll go on an LP scheduled for release Nov. 26, followed by a show at Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill Nov. 30. The project benefits the NAACP, Progress NC and Planned Parenthood.
In the ’90s, there seemed to be a disconnect between the homegrown music scene in Charlotte and the vibrant, trend-setting college music coming out of Chapel Hill and the surrounding area – once predicted as the next Seattle. That divide has narrowed with musicians from Charlotte working with Triangle-area producers, labels and artists, but nothing quite brings artsy types together like political discourse and social unrest.
Hence the NC Music Love Army.
“I came home after Moral Monday ... and saw that Django (Haskins of Old Ceremony) and Jon had posted protest songs,” explains Cary. She’s former fiddler for Whiskeytown, a solo artist and member of Tres Chicas and Small Ponds. She immediately called Lindsay.
“We just got going about what we could do to use the one weapon at our disposal to fight this. We started brainstorming about people we knew who would be into writing songs. It wasn’t hard to get a lot of great people to say, ‘Hell, yeah. I’ll do it.’”
Cary, Haskins and Lindsay met with Tift Merritt, Snuzz, Shirlette Ammons, Hiss Golden Messenger, Michael Rank, Jeffrey Dean Foster, Stu McLamb of the Love Language, Jennyanykind, Charlotte’s own Amigo, Lauralyn Dossett and others to quickly rehearse and record the LP in two days in July.
“I feel like I might’ve aged seven years in the past eight days,” Lindsay said afterward. “(But) this was something we couldn’t not do. I have no illusion that we personally are going to solve any sociopolitical problems, but I think there’s so much energy built up around the movement.”
The project is entirely North Carolina-based, with publicity, marketing, advertising and distribution donated by businesses like Haw River’s Red Eye Distribution, which distributes music to stores nationally.
There’s certainly more to be sung. Cary and Lindsay plan to release “Dear Mr. McCrory,” written after the album was finished, as a duet later this year.
The NCMLA is certainly open to more participants. “There is some truth in the fact you can’t work like this forever. We hope to pass the torch to some other people.”
Courtney’s blog: cltsoundbites.blogspot.com
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