It’s not hard to imagine what kinds of songs Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie would be singing in 2020 as our world is engulfed by not just a deadly virus, but also white supremacy, gun violence, economic devastation, fascist policies, and so much more. Without Pete and Woody’s voices, the task falls to the current crop of social justice-minded folkies, a number of whom have released tracks here and there, with one surprise-dropping a whole album of them.
Nairobi native Ondara (formerly J.S. Ondara) came to the U.S. In 2013, landing in Minneapolis and releasing his acclaimed debut, Tales of America, just last year. On that set, he traced his journey from there to here, taking more than 20 tries to properly capture his perspective on “American Dream.”
With Folk N’ Roll Vol 1: Tales of Isolation, he’s making less of a political statement and more of an historical document, though not one without its edges, as evidenced in “Pyramid Justice.” In song after song, he highlights the human experience of the global pandemic: He notes that there’s no savior coming to rescue the working class that was so suddenly severed from their livelihoods when they were “Pulled Out of the Market” and he details the desperation and difficulty of wanting and maintaining emotional intimacy “From Six Feet Away.” On others, he bears witness to his own tortured mind in these particular times.
The record was written and recorded in one week, so expectations should be set accordingly. Nevertheless, it’s good to see artists laying down their accounts on the permanent record in real time because there’s certainly no lack of important topics to address, now or always. The world may be shutdown, but bigotry and inequality never take a break.
Folk N’ Roll Vol 1: Tales of Isolation is available HERE.