Music has always been an art form people turn to in order to get through turbulent times. Legendary artists like Bessie Smith, Memphis Minnie and Woody Guthrie’s music is synonymous with the political climate of their era. Now, their music serves as inspiration for Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Alynda Segarra, who continues the tradition by bringing us a rallying cry in the form of politically charged folk-rock on The Navigator.
The songs on the album were inspired by Segarra's own journey growing up in New York, running away from home at 17 and busking on the streets to survive. She found her way to New Orleans, where she started Hurray for the Riff Raff. After recording four albums, Segurra knew she wanted to find her way back home.
“The more I toured, ending up in the middle of nowhere bars from Texas to Tennessee I just started feeling more and more like, I don’t belong here, I gotta get back to my people, you know?” said Segarra, via press release.
To write this homecoming album, Segarra created a character through which to channel her journey. She describes Navita Milagros Negrón, a.k.a. "The Navigator" as “this girl who grows up in a city that’s like New York, who’s a street kid, like me when I was little, that has a special place in the history of her people.”
To be clear, labelling Segarra’s songs simply “folk rock” is a disservice to the songwriter; the songs are an ambitious mix of influences, including salsa, Afro-Caribbean funk and blues. In the folk tradition, however, her lyrics tackle the issues of her times: gentrification, intersectionality, sexual identity, class and race.
“I feel like my generation, through groups like Black Lives Matter, is really focusing on that type of intersectionality — if one of us is not free, then none of us are free,” she says. “The Navigator’s role is to tell the story, tell it to the people who don’t know their own story, so they can be free.”
The Navigator will be released on March 10 via ATO Records. Pre-order it here. Hurray for the Riff Raff will be playing a show in Vancouver at the Imperial theatre on June 15. You can get tickets here.
Editor's note: If you are experiencing issues with the player in Chrome, please type "chrome://plugins/" into the URL field and set Adobe Flash Player to "Always allowed to run."