FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 24, 2014
Canadian musician-producer and social justice activist Chris Brown Releases An Album of Songs - Postcards from the County - Recorded with Prisoners at Pittsburgh Institution
Kingston, Ontario - Every powerful note on Postcards from the County was played, sung and recorded in jail. The prisoners at Pittsburgh Institution collaborated with musician/producer Hugh Christopher “Chris” Brown, writing and arranging songs in the prison chapel, which the men helped convert into a recording studio every week for the sessions. The album is available for a free download here: http://www.prosandconsprogram.com
Brown had an idea for what he calls the Pros and Cons program (encouraging professional mentorship of inmates) over 3 years ago after the government shut down numerous prison farms, including the farm at Pittsburgh Institution. Chris recently spoke with journalist Peter Hendra/ The Kingston Whig-Standard: ”I wanted to get in there and do something positive…How [the prisoners] experience their time inside directly affects the state of our society on their release. It seems to me to be very responsible conduct for ourselves and our government to provide truly meaningful programs that allow people to properly rehabilitate.”
As fate would have it, Brown’s path would cross with then chaplain Kate Johnson one evening a few years back at a film screening hosted by the chaplaincy at Queens University and he approached her with his idea. Chris was granted his request to work with the men and began music sessions at the prison on a bi-weekly basis, encouraging and inspiring the inmates to sing, write, and learn production, arrangement, recording and engineering skills through the process.
From the opening moments of the first track, “I Wonder” (by Melwood Cutlery) on Postcards from the County, the listener is invited along an intimate journey through song filled with humanity, raw honesty and wonderment. Among the many other highlights are Paul Simon’s “Silent Eyes” led by Kate Fenner; ”Christian Highway,” written and performed by one of the incarcerated men, who doesn’t ask “you to believe in me/just trust in the God I serve/to help me become the man I could be/the son you deserve”; and Sarah Harmer’s stirring “How Deep in the Valley.” In addition to the songs penned by the prisoners and the aforementioned songwriters, Postcards includes songs by a number of notable Canadian musicians who collaborated and recorded with Chris and the men, including Sarah Harmer, Kate Fenner, Luther Wright, Sarah McDermott (Openhearts Society) and Pete Bowers (Gertrudes).
1. I Wonder (Melwood Cutlery)
2. Lincoln’s Feet (Openhearts Society)
3. Silent Eyes (Paul Simon)
4. Love In Time (Openhearts Society)
5. Christian Highway (P.I.)*
6. Tangled Entwined (P.I.)*
7. Road To Demascus (P.I.)*
8. Oblivion (Brown)
9. Northern (Wright)
10. Truth In War (P.I.)*
11. How Deep In The Valley (Harmer)
12. Love In Time /Reprise (McDermott/Schenkman/Brown)
*Tracks followed by P.I. indicate original works by inmates who have desired anonymity. All of the prisoners who participated agreed to do so on the condition that they would remain anonymous. They desired anonymity out of respect to the victims, and wanted to participate in this project in service to society without any kind of personal recognition or recompense. It is their hope that the music inspires the listeners to support any or all of their suggested charities below.
Joe’s M.I.L.L. (Joe Chithalen Memorial Musical Instrument Lending Library)
For more information:
BIO for Hugh Christopher Brown:
Born and bred in Toronto, and calling NYC home, before recently setting up his studio in the old post office on Wolfe Island, multi-instrumentalist and music producer Hugh Christopher “Chris” Brown has “a real talent for writing thought-provoking political songs that somehow manage to keep the feet tapping and the mind racing at the same time” (All Music Guide). Beyond his own music, Chris has performed and recorded (usually organ, piano and clavinet – but sometimes trombone, tuba or other instruments) for many stellar artists including Ani DiFranco, Joan As Police Woman, Tony Scherr, Barenaked Ladies, Ashley MacIsaac, Crash Test Dummies and Jen Chapin, among others. Brown was one of the primary singers and songwriters for the alternative rock band Bourbon Tabernacle Choir in the 1980s and 1990s and when that band broke up, he continued performing as a duo with his Bourbon bandmate Kate Fenner.
Chris currently divides his time between Brooklyn, NY, and Wolfe Island, Ontario, producing albums, touring and performing solo or with many of his musical colleagues including Kate Fenner and Open Hearts Society. Chris is also a passionate and committed social justice activist and founded the Pros and Cons program volunteering at Pittsburgh Institution where he continues to run music workshops. He recently completed albums with Suzanne Jarvie and David Corley slated for release this fall/winter, and is currently working on a solo album as well as projects with OHS and Kate Fenner.
MISSION STATEMENT BY PARTICIPANTS REGARDING
POSTCARDS FROM THE COUNTY
We the inmates of Pittsburgh, who participated in the project, are extremely pleased to present to you this collection of music, produced entirely inside Pittsburgh Institution.
IT IS A LABOUR BORN OF LOVE
A love of music and the joy it can bring to the soul in a place where a soul can be lost.
IT IS A LABOUR BORN OF RESPECT
Respect for the many individuals who guided us through this process. The musicians who shared their songs, the talent they so freely gave, and the inspiration we gleaned from them.
IT IS A LABOUR BORN OF DESIRE
The desire to give something to society. A society we have each wronged in our own way. It was determined at the beginning of this project that any monies that may be derived from this should be directed to charitable endeavours. It gives us a great deal of satisfaction to be able to do this.
It is for this reason that we hope you enjoy the fruits of our labours.
We have been given so much joy through this experience. This is what we now pass on to you.
POSTSCRIPT: So many people who have participated in this project from its inception have moved on from here. Wherever you are, whatever directions your lives have taken, we wish you God’s peace. Bless you all.