The River Speaks Of Thirst

Jaki Shelton Green

Soul City Sounds, 2020

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


A prolific poet with eight books out already, North Carolina resident Jacki Shelton Green brings music to her political/social statements, cultural commentary, and anthemic linguistics with some very esteemed guests on hand for this debut album.

“This I Know For Sure,” with Jennifer Evans, brings eloquent, expressive spoken word about the seemingly never ending quest for freedom in the African American community as Evans hums softly in the background. “Madwoman” continues with strong storytelling about deep-seated prejudice while light, atmospheric sounds linger.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Elsewhere, “Letter From The Other Daughter Of The Confederacy” tackles slavery with fierce wordplay with an ominous quality on the musical side, while “Litany For The Possessed” recruits Shirlette Ammons for a percussive heavy, trip-hop influenced display of very literate rapping. “I Wanted To Ask The Trees,” the album’s standout tune, makes good use of keys alongside Green's descriptive prose.

The final two tracks bring in contributors on “No Poetry” and “The River Speaks Of Thirst,” as the former echoes with CJ Suitt's relevant insight and the latter soars with Nnenna Freelon's robust, sublime, Grammy-nominated pipes that takes on a call and response approach.

Sometimes being delivered in a protest fashion and other times from a gospel angle, Green couldn't have released this album at a better time as America is seeing one of the most noteworthy civil rights movements of this generation. As long as one is willing to listen openly, absorb freely, and ponder sincerely, Green's artistic activism will speak with forthrightness, power, and a timeless truth that is so desperately needed during these divided times.

Green's the first African American and third woman to be appointed to the North Carolina Poet Laureate, and this jazz and hip-hop influenced effort is sure to perk the ears of fans of Patti Smith, Lydia Lunch or Last Poets.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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