Raise it up or burn it down – this is the choice each of us has to make In these polarized times. This song had its beginnings on August 12, 2017 when I walked into the living room and was gobsmacked by the sight of Americans going at each other and out for blood in the streets of Charlottesville, VA. I stood transfixed by the scenes on CNN that day, culminating in the fatal car attack on protesters. How could one group of people become so angry that they could rationalize taking the lives of fellow Americans because of idealogical differences? How could another group of people be willing to destroy the fabric of civil society for the same reason?
I don't excuse the dark moments of the American story, but I believe in the ideals on which this country was founded and in the sacrifices made over the course of its history to preserve those ideals. We walk on sacred ground every day. The song's chorus and a verse about the clashes in Charlottesville were all I had for several months. I realized I would have to work backwards from Charlottesville and find the characters whose stories would lead the song to that scene in the streets. The song demanded three narrators who I have to summon up each time I sing it.
From the outset, there was something threatening and apocalyptic about this song as the band chased down the brooding arrangement. For the album, I imagined the chorus sung by huge church choir. We got as close as the budget would allow, but I heard one more element in my head. We've had the privilege of having Portland rock legend Jon Koonce sit in with us many times and bring his lap steel guitar along. That was the sound to finish off the track, and Jon was very kind to accept my invitation to the studio. Foreboding and searing at the same time, his sonic contribution will raise the hair on the back of your arms.
"You can't live in between when flesh is measured by the pound and the blood, sweat and tears that have sanctified this ground..." Listen to Raise It Up here