PM Press Blog, Review

Africatown, AL— 3 star review on Songlines

By Nigel Williamson
March 8th, 2024

After all Ian Brennan’s field recordings of mostly non-professional musicians and singers recorded around the world from Rwanda to Romania and Cambodia to Comoros, this intriguing recording takes him back to the country of his birth and specifically the community of Africatown, just outside Mobile, Alabama. The local population there is made up of direct descendants of the 124 African men, women and children who arrived on The Clotilde, the last slave ship to reach American shores in 1860, and Brennan has recorded them in the form of expression of their choice. ‘Run if You Can (Don’t Go Down That Road)’ is as primitive as anything recorded in the Delta a century ago by the original blues hunters, while ‘Walk With Thee’ is a similarly timeless a cappella gospel number. ‘Do You Hear Me Now’ is a piano ballad, ‘Black Part of Town’ features some free jazz sax blowing and ‘Africatown in Their Face’ is an unaccompanied rap. There are also ambient soundscapes recorded in the factories and surrounding countryside and some powerful spoken word interludes such as ‘Sent to Vietnam, But Never Been to Africa’ and ‘Only Black School’. It’s challenging, but deliberately so and, like every project Brennan undertakes, there’s a raw honesty that is entirely admirable.