Sparky & Rhonda Rucker,
Let Freedom Ring
(independent, 2012)

James "Sparky" Rucker has spent the last 50 years, performing songs and telling stories, during which time much of his work has focused on freedom and civil rights. His music often draws influences from Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, as well as many of the Mississippi Delta blues artists. He performs with his wife Rhonda, and listening to their music -- and their emphasis on history and storytelling -- is like getting fun history lesson.

Let Freedom Ring is a wonderful collection of songs about freedom, peace, hope and equality from the 1800s to the present. Opening with the familiar "We Shall Not Be Moved," it moves through "Marching Through Georgia" from the Civil War era, to the old familiar blues songs, "Corrina, Corrina" and "Midnight Special." "Uncle Sam's Daughter" is a song that dates back to the Women's Suffrage era of the late 1800s. "Which Side Are You On?" started out as a song from the 1930s and then got revised during the civil rights movement. It includes a well done rendition of "Hold On," which many people will recognize as "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize," recently recorded by both Mavis Staples and Bruce Springsteen.

Along with a wonderful mix of familiar and lesser known traditional songs are two beautiful original songs written by Rhonda. One of the more unusual and fun traditionals is a lesser known civil rights song called "Dog, Dog." The song's writer tells us how he wasn't allowed to play with the neighbor's kids because they were white, although it was OK for his dog to play with the neighbor's dog. The CD closes with a beautiful rendition of "We Shall Overcome," for which Sparky and Rhonda enlisted many of their friends to sing along with them.

Let Freedom Ring is a very enjoyable look back many of the significant songs that have been associated with freedom and civil rights. The arrangements have been kept simple, which gives it a very good traditional sound. I've been fortunate to have seen the Ruckers perform live several times, and their love of music, history and storytelling make their live shows -- and this CD -- a real nice treat.

music review by
Dave Townsend

31 August 2013

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