Spirituals, gospel songs, and protest songs create sonic spaces into which we enter, allowing us to join our voices in chorus with the singer’s words. Anya Hinkle’s haunting and riveting “What’s It Gonna Take,” featuring Graham Sharp of the Steep Canyon Rangers on banjo, Jon Weisberger, – who produced the song – on bass, sacred steel guitarist DaShawn Hickman, and gospel singer Wendy Hickman invites us to find ourselves in the song, to express our palpable anguish over racial and economic divisions in our society, and to plead along with her for justice and reconciliation.
The song opens with Sharp’s banjo notes weaving around and under Hickman’s plaintive steel notes, laying a bed of sound over which Hinkle’s vocals, at once sorrowful and insistent, float, echoed by Wendy Hickman’s harmony vocals. Hickman’s sacred steel sings its own song in counterpoint to Hinkle’s vocals, offering a mournful response on the instrumental bridge. The stark black and white video of the song captures the anguish and pain of waiting, even as the spare and poignant beauty of the music fills the grainy darkness and lifts our voices in song. “What’s It Gonna Take” vibrates in our souls, catches us in our spirits, and asks us how we can reconcile the mistreatment and abuse of groups of Americans with a rhetoric that preaches equality and justice for all.
Hinkle and her neighbor Sharp wrote the song on the day the news broke of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police officers. “In fraught moments, you usually write what you need to write, to process what’s going and find the words to move forward,” says Sharp. “This was the case with ‘What’s It Gonna Take.’ My first instinct as we were writing was to look inside myself and what I could do. It was a very raw moment to see the pain of George Floyd and the Black community and know that I needed to account for myself in that moment.” Hinkle adds, “Writing was the only way to really open up to things we often keep locked inside, things that aren’t pretty to examine, that are scary in fact. It helped us get honest about that, to push through some kind of strange fear of admitting how clearly some of us benefit from the system and others just lose over and over again. I don’t think the song does anything except to invite people to take a look at this sparkling mess and admit it’s there and needs to be reckoned with.”
“What’s It Gonna Take” is available HERE.
> Facebook – @anyahinkle.music
> Instagram – @anyahinkle.music
> Facebook – @grahamsharpmusic
> Instagram – @grahamsharpmusic