About this project
Who is Joe Hill?
Joe Hill is the most famous labor songwriter and labor martyr in US history and most people know precious little about him...other than Joan Baez sang about him at Woodstock. He worked with the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) in the early 1900's. He wrote about labor, immigration, workers' rights, love, and war using the melodies of the popular songs of the day, creating a template used subsequently by Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and others. 2015 is the 100th anniversary of his death and I aim to introduce people to the music that helped fuel the American Labor Movement. It's been decades since a recording of any of Hill's music has been released. Now, I figure, is the time.
What'll be on the album?
Hill wrote a couple of songs that have been covered widely, especially The Preacher & the Slave and Casey Jones, the Union Scab. There'll be nearly 20 songs. And as all these songs are over 100 years old, much of the language and terminology might be unusual to folks. I'll be contemporizing some of the language, making the songs feel less like museum pieces, allowing their ideas to resonate with many of the issues still pertinent today.
The arrangements will vary widely: from stark solo pieces, to rollicking Celtic romps, to ragtime sing alongs, and even, given Joe's love of parodying the religious brass bands of the day, some full-ahead brass band songs. I'll be recording at Bias Studios, with the great Bob Dawson at the controls. The musicians will be a who's-who of the acoustic music world.
The idea is to give Joe Hill a party and present his music in ways that'll engage and inspire a new generation of admirers.
After 36 albums, why Kickstarter?
Record companies used to pay for recordings. They would take risks on projects that might not make money or sense. They used to get those recordings to your local CD stores. No more. Now it's up to us.
Crowdsourcing democratizes entrepreneurship. Corporations have gone to investors for years. So, if corporations are now people, maybe we can be corporations...and find people who want to see good things happen. Plus, a project like this is perfect for grassroots support. I'd like to think it's exactly how Joe Hill would have approached it.
What'll the money be used for?
It'll pay union wages and benefits to every arranger, musician, engineer, and artist involved. It'll pay for artwork and design, recording, mixing, mastering, manufacturing of the project. There will be travel costs and, as with every project, unexpected expenses that'll arise along the way. The road from concept to release is a long, complicated, and expensive path. I've always believed in paying people fairly for their work and this project is no different.
I've put together some fun and unusual rewards for my supporters. Check 'em out...and check back, as I'll be adding some things along the way.
Risks and challenges
We'll actually begin arranging and recording before this campaign is done. Barring unforeseen delays, it'll be finished before Christmas and released officially in early 2015.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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