If you’re looking for modern protest music, look no further than Milwaukee’s Nickel&Rose. Since 2016, upright bassist Johanna Rose and and guitarist Carl Nichols have been grappling with the modern world via their sometimes stark, sometimes delicate, always trenchant folk music. On last year’s “Americana,” for example, Nichols challenged the dominant color of the titular music genre and blasted “the lack of diversity in the audience, the lack of credit given to black artists, and how black Americans have been denied access to their own culture.” Now, Nichols and Rose have released their most direct protest song yet, the harrowing “Another Man.”
What can you say about a song this immediate, this angry, and this personal? It’s inspired by a recording of Vera Hall singing “Another Man Done Gone.” It contains lines like “Twenty-first century don’t mean a thing to me because it might as well be 1910.” It memorializes people of color who have died following encounters with the police, including Sandra Bland. It includes Nichols’ own experiences: “They killed another man / Police pulled a gun on me when I was only 17 / I could have been that man.” It’s best just to listen:
Nickel&Rose will play the Cactus Club on Friday, August 23 with a host of friends. The show will serve as kickoff to a several-week European tour, followed by an official showcase at AmericanaFest in Nashville.