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Jake Blount, 'The Downward Road'

The art of spoken word hasn't often intersected with one of this country's first original music genres: old-time acoustic music, heard first in an explosion of string bands in the 1800s. Almost two centuries later, though, Jake Blount infuses spoken word into "The Downward Road." At turns both spoken and sung, the song revives a Weird Old America standby, accompanied by the hypnotic drone of instruments like banjo and fiddle, as well as a modern, looping percussion technique courtesy of producer Brian Slattery.

Lyrically, Blount and guest Demeanor tell an Afrofuturist story set in a world devastated by climate change: "The water rising, surrounding everybody that's in it / And little Silas wanna come home / All he got is a cot that he drum on." The song becomes part of Jake Blount's larger thematic arc of climate refugees migrating north, with parallels to his own ancestors' historical flights from slavery and Jim Crow.

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