One month out of every year, everyone from local TV stations to billion-dollar brands give minimal acknowledgement to the accomplishments and occasionally the struggles of black Americans. And in most instances, it’s to let you know that George Washington Carver developed a slew of projects using peanuts.
Chris Pierce, meanwhile, has decided to use the pulpit of Black History Month to put out a phenomenally powerful record, American Silence, which cuts deep with its vivid, realistic looks at the current state of race in this country. And on his latest, Pierce – who has managed to blend Americana with Soul for more than 15 years – channels the spirit and sound of Dylan, thanks in part to the sparse, stripped down sound often with little more than an acoustic guitar and a harmonica. The first track, “American Silence,” lays all his cards on the table with the opening line “Will you rise up when your comfort is in jeopardy/Will you resist justifying the complexities.” “Sound The Bells” is even darker with first person lyrics detailing a burning cross, bullets and an unprovoked violent arrest. The lyrics alone are enough to chill, but it’s Pierce’s stark, remarkably emotive vocals that really drive home the messages here.
Across 10 tracks, he tackles mass incarceration (“Chain Gang Fourth Of July”), self-love (“Young Black And Beautiful”), Native American boarding schools (“Residential School”), and an emotional tribute to John Lewis (“The Bridge Of John”). The album was recorded with just Pierce and the studio owner/engineer in the room, adding to the sparseness.
American Silence is a stark reminder that the global Black Lives Matter movement of this past summer didn’t quickly solve all racial inequalities and stop violence aimed at black men, women and others. It was just the start. And American Silence is an ideal soundtrack to continue the movement.