Fold is a UK based collective of socially conscious Trip Hop artists and I really like what they've done on their "debut" EP "We Must Speak". The technique of using Dr. King's words and speeches in the mix has, frankly, been done to death at this point. But that doesn't mean some creative person can't come along and do it so well that they simply can't be ignored. Fold has done that, here, on the title track and on the other MLK piece "A Revolution Of Values". (I haven't yet had the chance to check out the tracks featuring the other luminaries.) "We Must Speak", in particular, has a nice, gritty and bluesy feel to it and also manages to convey a part of Dr. King's message. If they had been making Trip Hop records in the late sixties, they probably would have sounded very much like this one.
"We Must Speak" is offered up as a "name your price" item through Bandcamp, but it's also available worldwide through Amazon and iTunes and Spotify, and fully three-quarters of all profits earned will go to actually making a positive difference in the world via Kiva (which looks like a really cool organization) and The Tax Justice Network. So at least stop and think a bit before you reflexively enter "0" in the little box.
One of the biggest names stepping forward this year with a song appropriate for Martin Luther King Day is Allison Crowe who, back in July, released a two-sided single pairing her original "Arthur" with that great MLK inspired song "Up To The Mountain", written by Patty Griffin and previously performed by the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Susan Boyle, and Crystal Bowersox. This one's not free, but Allison's typically wonderful performance of The MLK Song is easily worth the 99 cents it will cost you at Amazon. Or, better yet, get both tracks through Bandcamp for $1.49--roughly 75 cents per song (a la carte, "Up To The Mountain" is 89 cents at Bandcamp).
Before the controversy, however, Freddie Horstmann recorded a song referencing King's original quote. "MLK" is featured on Horstmann's 2-track single "A Drum Beat For Righteousness". The bluesy flip-side "Blues Man" is also an appropriate track for Martin Luther King Day. I dig the chorus on the latter, which has a bit of a stripped down Jim Morrison and the Doors feel, though I haven't made up my mind on that song as a whole. As for "MLK", I like it a lot (even though, again, the devise of using King actualities is getting old). It's a socially conscious Folk Rock tune from the Los Angeles based artist. If nothing else, you can see through this song why altering King's original quote completely changed it's meaning and intent. You can get both songs for free on Bandcamp.
Mr. Billy is fairly prolific and a lot of his gigs, no doubt, are holiday centric. So it's really no surprise that a Martin Luther King track is on the way. You can currently stream "He Had A Dream" at Soundcloud or using the widget above, but you won't actually be able to acquire it until Billy releases "Rock And Roll All Night" later this year. Good to know, though, because...again...upbeat.
Always looking for something new and different, here's an excellent original piece from JAH Boogie, a Roots Reggae artist fronting the Madison, Wisconsin band Natty Nation. You might wonder how authentic a Reggae band from America's heartland can be. Listen to "Civil Rights" and I think you'll agree the answer is "pretty darn authentic". This one's a Bandcamp freebie and you won't even need an email address--instant download all the way. Yah mon.
New Jersey's DJ Daveed Martinez has posted a nice House mix of "Penso In Ti" for free download on Soundcloud. Martin Luther King has previously inspired some classic House music--most notably Mr. Fingers' "Can You Feel It? (I Have A Dream Remix)". "Penso In Ti" has a very nice Smooth Jazz feel and should be accessible to folks not usually predisposed to House music. And, you know, free. That's always good. I should probably mention that this download is a "wav" file.
For Martin Luther King Day 2012, Daniel D. recorded a fairly straight forward but nonetheless moving rendition of "We Shall Overcome" in tribute to the slain Civil Rights leader. About the only place you'll find it, right now, is CD Baby and it'll run you $1.29. You should also check out "The Dream Today" from the 2010 release "Serenade".