Lucius, Margo Price, Sharon Van Etten Offer Songs of Healing and Protest
"The great thing about Newport is you can come here to get inspired by music, and then go home and do something about it," announced the Decemberists' Chris Funk toward the end of Speak Out, a Sunday afternoon ensemble performance of protest music, new and old. With members of the Decemberists, My Morning Jacket and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band serving as the backing band, guests like Billy Bragg and Nathaniel Rateliff offered songs of hope, compassion, anger and action. The songs ranged from the feel-good anthemic (Kyle Craft singing Bowie's "Heroes") to the directly partisan (Billy Bragg's haunting rendition of Anais Mitchell's "Why We Build The Wall"). The source material for this covers-heavy set alternated between the reassuringly reliable, with Jim James and Nick Offerman singing Dylan's "Masters of War" and Margo Price belting John Lennon's "Working Class Hero," to the wonderfully unexpected, such as Sharon Van Etten's sparse take on Sinead O'Connor’s "Black Boys on Mopeds" and Lucius' soulful harmonizing on the Five Stairsteps' "O-o-h Child." After a 2016 Newport Folk that felt strangely devoid of much political commentary, Sunday afternoon's Speak Out provided a vital, much-needed moment of explicit sociopolitical musical communion.