“Which Side Are You On?,” the second single off Kronos Quartet’s forthcoming album, Long Time Passing, was released today on Folk Alley. Originally written by Florence Reece in the wake of a union busting rampage in her home, the song was later popularized by Pete Seeger and the Almanac Singers with their recorded collection of labor songs, Talking Union. In Kronos’ version (arranged by Jacob Garchik), longtime friend and collaborator Lee Knight joins on vocals to reimagine this labor union anthem:
FROM THE LINER NOTES
“The words of this song were written by Florence Reece in 1931, the night she and her family were terrorized by police in Harlan County, Kentucky. Led by Sheriff J.H. Blair, the deputies entered her home looking for her husband, an organizer of a miners’ union that had gone on strike. The ‘gun thugs,’ as she called them, stormed her house, poking bags of laundry and rifling through closets, terrifying Reece and her seven children. After they left, Reece tore a sheet off the wall calendar and wrote this song.
“The melody draws from the Baptist hymn ‘Lay the Lily Low,’ and like many of our most vital songs, takes on new meaning as it rings down the decades. Pete Seeger first sang it with the Almanac Singers in the early 1940s, and Lee Knight sings it here in a rendition that all but demands to open this album. An unwavering supporter of the outdoors and community arts, and a dear friend of ours since 1996, Lee has even shared some performances with Seeger—a connection that seems almost inevitable when you hear the way they both bring warmth and generosity to the most incisive of songs. To have Lee’s presence on this album is to feel constellations emerge.”