Rearrange My Heart, the astonishing new CD from Che Apalache, is as challenging as it is creative. It challenges assumptions, sometimes head on, sometimes more abstractly. But it does so to an inventive soundtrack, fueled by fiddle and banjo parts that draw you in and loosen your feet.
To me, that’s a good thing. Your mileage may vary, and that’s fine. But hear me – and this CD – out. You don’t have to change your mind, and in the current environment you probably won’t. But there’s beauty to be found in the music here, no matter your leanings, thanks in part to the creativity of producer Béla Fleck.
The 12 songs on the Free Dirt Records project are an eclectic mix of protest and Gospel, set against a backdrop of Latingrass, as you might expect from a quartet that comes from the U.S., Argentina, and Mexico.
As much as folks on both sides of the political divide sometimes want to avoid the topic – shut up and play music – the politics of Che Ap’s songs are unavoidable. There’s a decidedly liberal bent, especially on songs such as The Dreamer and The Wall. But, and this is part of the beauty, the protest of current government policies isn’t overly preachy.
For instance, in The Dreamer, songwriter and band leader Joe Troop sings:
Now you and I can sing a song
And we can build a congregation
But only when we take a stand
Will we change our broken nation
He’s more pointed in The Wall, saying flat out that if one is built, “then we’ll have to knock it down.”
The politics of those songs will chase off part of the potential audience, perhaps a big part of it. So, perhaps, will Troop’s open gayness. Others may be put off by the fact that some lyrics are sung in Spanish (and one song in Japanese).
And that’s sad. Because behind all of the potential hurdles that some people will put in place is a fun, talented, and energetic band playing original music from the heart. I saw this firsthand when the band and I spent a week teaching at Common Ground On The Hill recently in rural Maryland. Their live show was a display of virtuosity and beauty. Even better were the afterhours jams, in which Troop, Martin Bobrik, Pau Barjau, and Franco Martino exhibited a strong grasp of traditional born-in-America bluegrass. That comes from Troop, who was raised in North Carolina.
For those who can’t get past the politics, give a listen to New Journey, Over In Glory and the title cut. These are straight-ahead Gospel songs that are a staple of bluegrass, albeit this time infused with a Latin feel and swing.
It’s as if Troop, who wrote or co-wrote all 12 songs, is saying our politics might be different, but at the end of the day, most of us worship the same God.
Beauty is where you find it. I found some in this record, and from this unusual, talented, boundary-bending band. Maybe you will too. Maybe there’s something here we can all sing together.