Review: Diana Jones Song to a Refugee (Proper Records)
Tennessee-born singer-songwriter Diana Jones revealed a genius for inhabiting, with uncanny authenticity, spirits of the dispossessed, as early as her stunning 2006 song “Pony.” Guest artists Steve Earle and Richard Thompson help underscore that she’s the perfect artistic spokesperson for Southern border refugees. Consider the Trump administration’s cruel separation of hundreds of children from their parents, a dilemma the Biden presidency will struggle to resolve.
Song allows us to feel their experience, perhaps to move us to act: My brothers name is Leo, mine is Gabriel/ 46 and 47 but the numbers do not tell/what we wish and what we long for what we love and what we miss/our papa’s crazy stories and our mama’s gentle kiss/this is where are.
Here’s the compulsively incantatory “I Wait for You”: I walked for miles across many borders alone/ over oceans to make it here/ when nights are cold I sing lullabies/ the sun refuses to shine/ I sing for you/no work no pride, some wait for years to find…you have all my heart while we are apart/someday I hope you understand/when I sent for you and you come to me/ and you come to me we will be free.”
Her singing can be at once maternal, sisterly, and autobiographical. At times, you can taste desert dust.
Diana Jones. Courtesy New /York Times
“Santiago” carries specially poignance:
Here I stand in my hands is a rosary/ all I own and you take it/ a gift for my grandmother I was seven years old… Then came the killing and the fire/ we had to run some did not make it/ a little boy name Santiago stayed by my side/ his mother’s final words were he’s a good boy you can see/ I’ve never been a father but I would like to be/
Throughout the album, Jones switches points of view. She also conjures vivid metaphors, as in “The Sea is My Mother.” Yet, always her limpid, luminous voice sounds like an angel on a desolate shoulder, witness to a forsaken heart.
America, the land famously welcoming “your huddled masses,” this is where we are.
This review was first published In The Shepherd Express: https://shepherdexpress.com/music/album-reviews/song-to-a-refugee-by-diana-jones-proper/