With the breakneck pace of the modern news cycle, last summer’s tragic Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, already feels like a lifetime ago. But it’s one event that Jesse Dayton won’t forget any time soon – and on his fiery new protest song “Charlottesville,” the Austin singer-guitarist makes it clear that the rest of us should feel the same.
The third track to be premiered from Dayton’s upcoming LP The Outsider, due June 8th on Blue Elan Records, “Charlottesville” sees the former Waylon Jennings, X, and Rob Zombie collaborator taking to the pulpit to implore his fellow Americans to take action. “This ain’t no time for cowards,” he wails over a furiously picked acoustic guitar, invoking his Nazi-fighting grandfather and the death of Heather Heyer – a protestor who was killed during the rally last August – to make the point that there’s no place for racism, hatred and bigotry in the country that he knows and loves.
“I saw white men marching, chanting racist slogans, carrying torches and Nazi flags on my TV in 2017 America and had to write this song. I’m shocked we’re not hearing more of these songs. We need them now more than ever,” says Dayton of the coverage of the white supremacist rally. “Hearing Neil Young’s ‘Ohio’ or Joe Strummer from the Clash sing ‘Know Your Rights’ as a kid played a big part in my political consciousness. I love that it drives the Right crazy that I sound more hillbilly than they do, but I’m still progressive politically and more informed [than they are].”
The Outsider is Dayton’s first record since 2016’s The Revealer. The previous songs he’s released from the project — “Hurtin’ Behind the Pine Curtain” and “May Have to Do It (Don’t Have to Like It)” — have showcased the grittier, crunchier side of his electric guitar playing. While leaning more fully into the blues, “Charlottesville” maintains a world-wearied perspective but clings fiercely to a message of optimism in the face of social adversity.
Dayton plays Joe’s Great American Bar & Grill in Burbank, California, on May 24th.