Mother Jones in Heaven – CD of the songs

Vivian Nesbitt & John Dillon
“The Songs of Mother Jones in Heaven”

a musical by Si Kahn

Continue reading for annotated track list.

  1. You Are the “U” in Union (2:31) – Powerful union song with singable chorus and “in-tune” Salvation Army band
    In the opening song of the play, Mother Jones arrives in Heaven singing a union song with the heavenly choir of angels.
  2. Jail Can’t Hold my Body Down (2:32) – Moderate tempo with acoustic guitars, banjo and female harmony
    From an actual story of Mother Jones in jail with a brigade of women and their children and babies. They sang all night and created such a nuisance that the sleepless judge insisted that they be released.
  3. The Whiskey Ring and the Railroad Trust (2:52) – Up-tempo tune with Irish instrumentation (bodhran, acoustic guitar, cittern, tin whistle, banjo)
    Politically charged story song about greed and corruption in Memphis during the 1860s. Resonates with national issues today.
  4. I Had Left Ireland Behind Me (2:47) – Lilting Irish waltz with 12-string guitar, fiddle and cittern
    A passionate, heartfelt, sexy (but still suitable for radio airplay) love song, as the young Mary Harris and George Jones sweep each other off their feet
  5. Houses on the Hill (3:25) – Country song with fiddle, resonator guitar
    This song laments the contrasting worlds of the working class who live unsafe conditions and the rich who lived in their mansions on the hill.
  6. Stitch and Sew (3:26) – Melodic folk ballad featuring finger-picking guitar and old-time banjo
 Mary Harris Jones works as a seamstress for wealthy families just before the Great Chicago Fire. In this song, she awakens to the need for collective action on behalf of the working people.
  7. Tarpaper Shacks (4:11) – Up-tempo bluegrass tune with acoustic guitars, mandolin, banjo and female harmonies
    In the style of those joyous “I’m going to heaven someday” gospel hymns, a coal camp woman longs for a better life beyond coal dust and early death in the mines.
  8. Silk and Satin (3:20) – Haunting lament with finger-picking guitar, mandolin and percussion
 This song highlights the shame of child labor. Children go off to work instead of school and have virtually none of the joys of childhood.
  9. Mothers (3:46) – Acoustic guitar and bowed upright bass
    Mother Jones makes the argument that workers, especially children, should not be exploited. “If motherhood is sacred, then why are our children murdered, broken, maimed?”
  10. I Was There (3:17) – Inspiring anthem with acoustic guitar and brass horn section (complete with trumpet flourish, a la Penny Lane)
    Mother Jones looks back on her life, weighing her successes and failures, concluding that,
    “Whether I chose right or wrongly, I was there!” The song challenges listeners to take action.


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