Corey Harris – Insurrection Blues
15 tracks/45 minutes
It was twenty six years ago that Between Midnight and Day was released, Harris’ first CD. The ensuing 26 years saw the release of 19 more records. Harris has been the voice of a generation of bluesmen who is not afraid to identify the ills in our society and its’ institutions. He blends the rawness of traditional blues with the other styles of music that have influenced him in over two and a half decades and testifies to what he sees, writes, plays and sings about.
Harris describes the survival mechanisms that he, his fore-bearers and all the descendants of slaves have had to utilize to exist despite what they encountered and continue to. He notes how the black Capitol police who delayed the entry of the insurrection rioters saved the lives of many a senator and congressman without regard for their own safety; he notes specifically that, “It was a black man who saved the life of Mitt Romney (among others).” His mission to portray life in his music remains center to his being. The Insurrection occurred amidst the pandemic, challenging our freedom and our well being; Harris gives us fifteen new tracks that highlight these topics along with his proud heritage.
The album opens to “Twelve Gates To The City,” a lament filled song that could easily be a psalmist’s lyrics. He sings with passion and grit as to how beautiful is the city he sees in a Gospel styled and infused tune that is a traditional song he’s rearranged. “Some of These Days” follows, a song about leaving home and how his woman will miss him. Harris updates Charlie Patton here. In “When Did You Leave Heaven” he compares his women to an angel who apparently has left heaven, a delightful love song. Lino Muoio adds his mandolin here on this cover. “Toubaka” is next, a short and pretty traditional instrumental he arranged that is perhaps intended to highlight the problem in Africa with the excessive use of tobacco by the very young. Up next is the original “Mama Africa” where Harris opens with a long instrumental before he sings emotionally about his ancestral home. He finger picks intently as he almost howls and moans the rhythmic lyrics.
Skip Harris gets a little bit of a facelift with Harris’ rendition of “Special Rider Blues.” Harris presents this classic soulfully and intensely; well done! “Sunjata” is another traditional song Harris arranges. It comes from an epic poem about a 13th century Mali king who founded an empire. Here Harris again takes an old instrumental and gives it his fresh take with his thoughtful and expressive acoustic guitar work. “Interlude” is a short audio of the crowd cursing the police at the Capitol and serves as an introduction to the title track of the album. Harris sets up the song with a repetitive and almost hypnotic groove that drives the cut. “Insurrection Blues (Chicken Comes Home To Roost)” is a simple song but it certainly does demonstrate that the bad things we’ve allowed to brew and foment in America certainly do come back to bite us. It’s a great commentary. John Jackson’s “Boats Up River” follows, lightening the mood for the listener. Harris sings with the hopeful expectation his baby is on her way back to him. It’s a short and sweet cut expressing his feelings.
“By and By” is a traditional song Harris takes and makes his own. He takes us to church with this soulful performance. “You Gonna Quit Me Baby” is Harris giving us his take on Blind Blake and he does an excellent job here. Phil Wiggins joins Harris on harp for the original “Afton Mountain Blues.” They play about the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, emulating their beauty with some beautiful music . Harris picks with gusto as Wiggins blows some mean harp; it’s a great piece. Blind Blake is someone I love and here Harris gives us some more with “That Will Never Happen No More.” A bouncing beat and groove make this song feel happy despite it being about a woman who lure him home only to be beaten by her man and another who robbed him, but it won’t no more; a song of relational redemption. The album concludes with “Scottsville Breakdown,” an original cut that Harris plays and picks with a controlled reckless abandon. It’s a cool little piece about a town just south of where Harris now resides (Charlottesville, VA).
Harris sings and plays with the soulfulness and feeling, fueled by his life here and abroad. His fans will love this album and it should bring many, many new fans to his fold. It’s a great album and I am sure it will garner lots of notice in the music world!