“Lady Liberty” EP – Gerry Spehar

5 stars (out of 5)

1

We reviewed Gerry Spehar’s latest album, “Anger Management”, about eighteen months ago. At the time, Trump was still in his third year in the Oval Office. He’d done enough in that time to alienate millions of Americans and Gerry was one of them. “Anger Management” was an angry album and it was all about the damage Trump had done to the American people. It was also a classic example of the protest album, packed with well-crafted songs that are full of fury. It’s just as relevant now and it’s one that I keep coming back to.

The “Lady Liberty” EP is coming from a different place. There’s still some anger, but the focus has shifted; Trump himself doesn’t get a namecheck, but there are still a couple of references, one in the title track and one in the second song “Laura Dean”.

“Lady Liberty, Day One” is set in the very near future on Inauguration Day and combines the celebration of a new, hopefully more inclusive, politics in the United States with the familiar Gerry Spehar themes of immigration and the refugee experience. It’s a brief look back to darker days, but a much lengthier and more positive look forward to the escape from Trumpism. The musical setting is a complex, swirling, trippy prog arrangement in 6/8 time that emphasises the random, hallucinogenic events of the last four years. Bear in mind that this was written long before Trump showed his true colours with events in DC last week. It’s a powerful song with a powerful message; the people make the choice between cruelty and kindness.

Skipping past the second song for a moment, the EP ends with “The Immigrant Suite”, three stories of attempted flight from Mexico to the USA (two kids make it, one doesn’t). “Barrier Reef” has a Latin tinge with violin and trumpet overlaying some Eastern European touches. “Boy and Beast” has an acoustic guitar suggesting the sounds of a train while the fiddle suggests the whistle moaning heads north to meet his mother in LA; both the main characters of these songs make it across the border. “Meet Me at the Moon” is based around Latin rhythms and is partly sung in Spanish; it’s the story of a twelve-year-old daughter who doesn’t even make it out of Mexico to join her father. All three songs are powerful evocations of the complex human issues of cross-border movement.

Which brings us to “Laura Dean”. It’s much more simple than the title song, just finger-picked country acoustic and lap steel, but it’s every bit as powerful. Gerry Spehar writes very convincingly about individuals in difficult situations and “Laura Dean” is up there with his best. It tells the story of a true hero, a nurse dealing ceaselessly with dying patients while her kids’ grandma is dying at the other end of a Zoom call. This is all powerful stuff, but Gerry also contrasts it perfectly with the behaviour of Trump (un-named) and his hypocritical hijack of Easter 2020. This one will stick with me for a long, long time.

Following Trump’s election defeat, Gerry Spehar has moved on from the white-hot fury of “Anger Management” to a desire to return to the values of Emma Lazarus’s Statue of Liberty poem “The New Colossus”- Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’, which is referenced in the title song. The remaining songs on the EP contrast the human stories of the USA and its neighbours with the current upheaval to create the balance of personal and political that runs through our daily lives.

The “Lady Liberty” EP is a heartfelt piece of work that highlights the damage already done to the Unite States while pointing the way to a more understanding and inclusive future. It’s brave and powerful and I recommend that you listen to it.

The EP is released on Inauguration Day (Wednesday January 30th) to download and stream.