If there’s one uniting thread that runs through American music traditions, from the early days of delta blues to the modern era of hip hop, it’s the dual themes of resisting oppression and overcoming adversity.
The Blues was born from a need to express the hardships faced by African Americans in the post-civil war Deep South. The folk revival of the 60s inspired young people to stand up against war, government corruption, and racial inequality, concepts that have remained relevant through to the current day. Activist-turned-Americana-songstress Letitia VanSant carries on the torch for this proud tradition, tapping into that progressive American spirit on her debut full-length album Gut it to the Studs, set to release on February 2, 2018.
Before dedicating herself fully to her music career, the Baltimore, MD-based folk singer/songwriter was an active player in politics and progressive movements. That sense of civic duty which led her to those endeavors still drives much her work, and while Gut it to the Studs has some moments that poignantly call for social change, the overarching themes of the album are of a much more personal bent. Much of the album sees VanSant exploring the emotional benchmarks of her past, her dulcet voice preaching tenets of empathy and self-realization over a gently-picked guitar and a forlorn fiddle. Other songs discuss the institutional inequality of her native Baltimore and the disaffectedness felt by young Americans in the modern political climate. In a nod to the social movements of yesteryear, Gut it to the Studs also includes a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s classic protest song “For What it’s Worth” done in a subdued indie-inflected style.
Letitia displays the empathic quality of her music on the track “Come Sit by My Fire.” The song was written to comfort a loved one in a time of extreme grief: the unexpected loss of a parent. The lyrics show VanSant’s deep understanding of the sorrowful soul. She opens with the lines Oh my friend, I can only stand at the edge of your sadness and let the sorrow lap against my feet, a subtle recognition that although she wishes she could take away her friend’s pain, the best she can offer is companionship. Rather than offer hollow platitudes, VanSant touches on the sad realities at the heart of the matter, an indication of her honest approach to storytelling and testament to the comfort found in recognition of difficult truths.
Check out “Come Sit by My Fire” below, exclusively streaming on Culture Collide, and pick up the album when it comes out on February 2! Be sure to catch her on tour in February and March if you’re on the East Coast. Plus don’t miss out on VanSant’s exclusive Baltimore city guide.