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2015 is the 100th anniversary of the death of Joe Hill.  John McCutcheon is recording the first album of Hill's songs in decades.
2015 is the 100th anniversary of the death of Joe Hill. John McCutcheon is recording the first album of Hill's songs in decades.
389 backers pledged $35,045 to help bring this project to life.

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$35,045

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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.

The Rewards

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.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    a note of thanks from John

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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    a pre-release digital download of the album and album artwork

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    one of the very first copies of the album immediately upon its arrival from the manufacturing plant...pre-release! Also includes digital download.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    SPECIAL NEW BONUS REWARD!
    Get an autographed copy of both "Hail to the Chief" and "Stand Up!", 2 CDs of political satire thought out-of-print until we found a couple of boxes of each in a recent office move.

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    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    pre-release CD and download, plus personalized autograph from John

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    THE SWAG: pre-release CD and download, personalized autograph, and a limited edition "Joe Hill's Last Will" T-shirt

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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    All the Swag: (autographed CDs & downloads, "Joe Hill's Last Will" T-shirt) and a phone call from John thanking you personally for supporting the project

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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    SPECIAL BONUS REWARD!
    John's 1st album, "How Can I Keep from Singing" (1975) is his only out-of-print album. We recently found a CD master and will burn you a copy. This album is never going to be commercially released on CD. A rare find!

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    All the Swag, plus 4 tickets to any one of John's concert of your choice PLUS a backstage visit.

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    EXCLUSIVE MOTHER JONES LEVEL: All the Swag PLUS limited edition "Joe Hill's Last Will" poster, numbered & signed. Listing in "Special Thanks" on album.

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  11. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    A dinner for 2 with John pre-concert, then hang backstage pre-show and help plan John's set list for the show. PLUS all the CD/download/T-shirt swag.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    EXCLUSIVE JOE HILL LEVEL: All the Swag PLUS limited edition "Joe Hill's Last Will" poster, numbered & signed. Listing as "Associate Producer" on album. PLUS invitation to special private release party with John.

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    Pledge $600 or more About $600

    Go to a baseball game with John (he'll buy the tickets and the dogs) and he'll teach you how to keep score. PLUS all the CD/download/T-shirt swag.

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    Pledge $600 or more About $600

    Go to lunch with John and then putter around your favorite bookstore for a couple of hours. PLUS all the CD/download/T-shirt swag.

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  15. Select this reward

    Pledge $750 or more About $750

    Handwritten lyrics to any one of John's songs of your choice. PLUS all the CD/download/T-shirt swag.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    SPECIAL NATIONAL STORYTELLING FESTIVAL OFFER: A dinner for two with John & his wife, Carmen, at their home in Georgia. Take a tour of John's studio, chat about writing, baseball, or anything at all and eat amazing home cooked Cuban food.

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    Pledge $2,500 or more About $2,500

    John will write a song about the subject of your choice. You'll get the written and autographed lyrics and a demo recording of the song. All public use of the song will indicate it was written for you. PLUS all the CD/download/T-shirt swag.
    (NOTE: John retains all rights to the song)

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    Pledge $4,000 or more About $4,000

    John will do an acoustic concert in your home for an audience of 50 or less. You provide travel and lodging. PLUS all the CD/download/T-shirt swag.

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    The Big Kahuna: You will become the owner of John's original Sam Rizzetta Custom Hammer Dulcimer. This is the instrument used on "Winter Solstice," "Fine Times at Our House," and "Step by Step." Concert quality instrument in mint condition with dampers, pickups, and case. This is a one-of-a-kind, historic instrument.

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Funding period

- (30 days)