Songs for change: N.C. Music Love Army to perform CD release party

Nov. 28, 2013 @ 06:35 PM

The times they may be a changin’ again. The musicians who organized the N.C. Music Love Army last summer want their new collection of protest songs “We Are Not for Sale” to translate into change at the ballot box and in the halls of the Legislature.

The musicians will gather Saturday for a CD release party at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, but for Jon Lindsay, the recording’s producer and co-founder of the Music Love Army, the group is “just getting started because what we want to do is effect change in the next election in 2014,” and put leaders in the Legislature “who reflect the true values of our state,” Lindsay said.
Caitlin Cary, violinist, songwriter and co-founder of the Music Love Army, sees the release as the next step in a process that was inspired by the Moral Monday protests last summer. That step includes new collaborations with musicians, and “[allowing] these songs to go out and do work on their own,” Cary said.
The group formed in late June after Django Haskins posted his song “We Are Not for Sale,” protesting the General Assembly’s policies on fracking, cuts to education, voting rights and other issues. Lindsay and Cary heard the song, and decided to get other musicians to write and record protest songs. (“We are inspired by the belief that the act of creation provokes change,” the liner notes to the CD state.) They solicited song submissions, and the army of guitars, singers, fiddlers, and other instrumentalists was born.
The musicians held an open public rehearsal at The Pinhook in July. The next day, they gathered in Raleigh to record the tunes in a studio. Originally, they planned a disc of six songs, but “it very quickly became clear that more people wanted to be involved in it,” Cary said.
The final CD has 10 songs. In addition to Haskins’ tune, the disc also has Lynn Blakey’s “Army of Love,” Caitlin Cary and Shirlette Ammons’ collaboration “My Body Politic,” Lindsay’s “Is This Here What Jesus Would Do?,” Ammons and Dasan Ahanu’s verse collaboration “Get Free,” Billy Sugarfix’s “Abraham Lincoln in His Grave,” Rhiannon Giddens’ “We Rise,” and more.
The open rehearsal proved good preparation for the quick recording session. “We hoped and prayed the night before,” Lindsay said. “I think it was a giant risk,” Cary added. “I had never experienced an open rehearsal.” Performing in front of an audience made the musicians focus, and the rehearsal “also gave a huge morale boost to everyone because the crowd was very much into it,” Cary said.
Lindsay described the recording session as a “perfect storm” and a convergence of positive elements. “Everyone that appears on this record is a seasoned professional,” he said. All the musicians checked any ego or perfectionism at the door. “Everyone just trusted we were going to make the record sound good,” Lindsay said.
Many of the musicians on the recording performed at some of the Moral Monday rallies. While Lindsay and Cary are friends with state NAACP President the Rev. William Barber and other organizers, they are not directly affiliated with the movement, they said, and maintain artistic control over what they create. (Proceeds from this recording will benefit Progress NC and Planned Parenthood of Central N.C.)
“We Are Not for Sale” follows in the folk song protest traditions of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and other singers, history that is not lost on the Love Army members. “We’ve been asked, why did you make a record,” Cary said. She and her fellow musicians wanted to contribute something that reflected the protests, and the groundswell of North Carolinians protesting unjust policies, she said. She grew up hearing the music of Seeger, and learning about how he used music to move people. This recording is her first time using that approach, she said. 
Lindsay describes the musicians as students of the protest tradition, applying those skills to the issues of today. “Let’s look at our time and our issues and let’s be a part of that conversation,” Lindsay said. “It makes us very proud and humble to be part of that conversation.”   

Go and Do

WHAT: CD release party for the N.C. Music Love Army’s album “We Are Not for Sale”
WHEN: Saturday, 9 p.m. (doors open at 8)
WHERE: Cat’s Cradle, 300 E. Main St., Carrboro
ADMISSION: Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 day of show. To purchase, call 919-967-9053 or visit