This post makes me absolutely giddy with joy: I’m debuting a song by my favorite band in Philly, who I also interviewed for this post, and if you buy it all the proceeds go straight to Women’s Law Project.
The song is “If You Harden On The Inside,” the first new tune from Hezekiah Jones since after their 2016 EP Har Har Har and a track on December’s Vilomahed project curated by Michele Lynn. You can get it for as little as $1, although I encourage you to donate more!
Hezekiah Jones is the folk collective formed by and around Philly-based songwriter Raphael Cutrufello. He pulls a peculiar double-duty while fronting the band, acting the entire time as Hezekiah, with each one of the band’s rotating cast of musicians presenting themselves as another fictional member of the Jones clan.
(My favorite: Dow Jones.)
That little touch of mythology goes a long way to contextualizing Cutrufello’s songwriting. When you hear Hezekiah Jones’ music, you have the profound sense that a weird band of back-country geniuses have briefly descended from their cloistered home on a hill to play for you, like a roving band of thespians in Shakespeare.
(It may be a hill in an alternate timeline.)
The songs are full of piercing observations on the human condition, always tinged with optimism. There’s also a smattering of details that place them in a vaguely post-apocalyptic landscape full of endless roiling wars and the Mississippi river expanded out to a sea.
“If You Harden On The Inside” could easily be a handclaps-and-harmony 60s pop song if it was dressed up with a full band arrangement. Instead, a whimsical chorus of Hezekiahs sings “blah blah blah” as backing to the track, later joined by a swell of electric pianos. As the song whirrs to life with its halting rhythm it gives serious vibes of Dirty Projectors.
Cutrufello AKA Jones plays everything on this track save for drums by Daniel Bower (AKA Roy G. Biv Jones) and bass by Philip D’Agostino (AKA Pepe Jones), a Philly music scene legend and touring member of Get The Led Out.
Half your saints
Are playing video games
Or they’re out doing meth
Or too depressed to get out of bed
All these bodies
What a delicate make
If you harden on the inside
You’ll be easy to break
Gave into love
Their guard would be down
We could steal all their stuff
That is the paradox of our human fragility in three stanzas, each repeated to make sure the message sinks in.
All the hearts that are kind enough to be saintly and soft enough to love are too vulnerable. That’s especially true in this modern world, where every senseless tragedy and critical injustice can locate and penetrate those delicate hearts in seconds via the internet.
If you let your heart grow too tender it will be bombarded. You will find yourself unable climb out of bed in the morning, or else you’ll need to numb your brain with video games and hard drugs. Yet, if you make your heart too hard, you’ll be easy to shatter if tapped at just the right spot.
Finding a middle ground between the two – a state where we’re sensitive, alive, but unbroken – is the great challenge of modern life.
What’s the point
Of having all the world
When your hands are so small
Your hands are so small
If you’re tempted to read a political message into the “small hands” stanza, resist. Not only does Jones potentially inhabit a timeline far removed from our own political struggles, but he claims the song is a non-partisan effort. “[It’s about] the hardening of ‘sides’ and the idea of looking at the opposition as ‘other’ to be degraded or taken advantage of, regardless of left or right.”
While we chatted, I asked the pseudonymous Jones about the genesis of those distinct, whimsical “blahs” that fill the track.
The “blah blah” came from me asking my wife about syllable sounds. I think I asked her something like, “La or Ah?” and she said, “Blah.” And, I was like, “eureka”!
When I played it back for her a couple days later she laughed, having not known why I even asked in the first place.
Is this song a portent of more new Jones music on the horizon? “I have been writing and recording a bunch,” Jones told me, “Finishing up a soundtrack for a Civil War film and writing a song for a play, as well.”
The proceeds for the song will go directly to the Women’s Law Project, a Pennsylvania non-profit organization devoted to the rights and equality of women and girls. That includes providing legal support to those who cannot afford it for themselves. Per Jones, “unlike the ACLU they haven’t seen the large bumps in public donations, and they desperately need it.”
Despite being based in PA, Women’s Law Project have a proven record of influencing the conversation on the national scale, especially on the topic of domestic violence. They led the initiative to prohibit insurers from using a history of domestic violence to inform coverage, which is now prohibited by law in all but five states.
They also successfully campaigned for the FBI to expand its definition of rape. Aside from the effects on criminal charges and prosecutions, this also lead to more robust data on rape and sexual assault on a national level. They are presently advocating to “eliminate unnecessary barriers to safely escaping intimate partner violence.”
“If You Harden On The Inside” is out today as a self-released song on Bandcamp, with iTunes soon to follow. It costs just $1, with 100% of the proceeds going to Women’s Law Project, but you can pay as much as you want. (Also, right now you can get Hezekiah Jones’s entire discography on Bandcamp for less than $40, and it is entirely mind-blowing.)
Review Disclosure: I only effusively praise things that I truly love. I received early access to this song so that I could discuss it concurrent with its release. I still paid/donated in exchange for the track. Hezekiah Jones is an occasional musical colleague who handles booking for a venue in which my bands have played shows. Want to offer me a track to listen to and discuss? Contact me today!