Seven months after the release of Terraplane, Steve Earle is already working on new music, funneling his frustration with America’s ongoing Confederate flag debate — an issue that continues to divide the Bible Belt, with Mississippi refusing to remove the Confederate emblem from its own state flag — into a newly-released protest song called “Mississippi, It’s Time.”
Arriving at the tail end of a summer that saw the rebel flag yanked from government grounds across the south, “Mississippi, It’s Time” tackles racism, war, slavery, patriotism and progression in less than three minutes. “Mississippi, don’t you reckon its time that the flag came down?” Earle sings during the first verse, directly addressing the lone state that has refused to abandon its government-sponsored Confederate imagery in light of the June 17th mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. While the song never mentions the church massacre, its influence is felt throughout.
“I grew up in the South and lived there until I was 50,” Earle says in a statement, “and I know that I’m not the only Southerner who never believed for one second that the Confederate battle flag is symbolic of anything but racism in anything like a modern context. [This song] is about giving those southerners a voice.”
“Mississippi, It’s Time” was recorded last month during the final weeks of a summer-long tour, with Earle rounding up his longtime backup band, the Dukes, and booking several hours at Rosebud Studios in Chicago. He produced the session himself. The result is a raw, ragged recording, anchored by Earle’s road-worn roar and filled with accordion, fiddle, mandolin, electric guitar, drums and the steady pulse of Earle’s longtime bassist, Kelly Looney. Released by Fantasy Records, the song adds to Earle’s long list of protest music, joining tracks like “Rich Man’s War,” “Billy Austin” and “Burnin’ It Down.”
Although it makes its Internet debut today, “Mississippi, It’s Time” will officially hit stores tomorrow, with all proceeds going toward the Civil Rights organization Southern Poverty Law Center.