"It feels like everyone's in a pressure cooker in this country," says Leyla McCalla in her biography, about the themes she addresses on her new album, The Capitalist Blues. The upcoming album, out on Jan. 25, was produced by Jimmy Horn of the New Orleans band King James & The Special Man, and is the third release by the former cellist with the Grammy Award- winning Carolina Chocolate Drops.
McCalla has been living in New Orleans since 2010. For The Capitalist Blues, she fully incorporated recording with a band, a move she's been inching towards since her 2013 debut. The album incorporates the sounds of the Big Easy with her interest in social justice. The title of "The Capitalist Blues," says McCalla in this album introduction video, "is me thinking about a lot of the psychological and emotional effects of living in a capitalist society."
Today, World Cafe premieres the music video for McCalla's cover of the calypso song "Money Is King." The song was originally recorded and popularized by Neville Marcano, under his stage name as The Growling Tiger, recorded in the early 1930s.
On the topical song, that fits perfectly in with the album's theme McCalla sings, "If a man has money today / People don't care if he has cocobey / If a man has money today / People don't' care if he has cocobey / He can commit murder
And get off free / Live in the governors company / But if you are poor / People will tell you "Shoo! A dog is better than you."
"Money Is King" sways with delicious musicality. On it, McCalla's voice sounds as strong as the message and social commentary of the song. McCalla plays tenor banjo, accompanied by a lilting arrangement of viola, bass, trumpet, guitar and a whiskey bottle, giving the song a measurable bounce.
"The first thought that I had upon hearing the song 'Money Is King' was, 'I want to sing this song,'" McCalla wrote in a statement. "I had been exploring secular Haitian folk music that used metaphor and powerful poetic imagery to address social and political issues; I immediately felt a connection to this similarity in the Calypso songs of Neville Marcano A.K.A. The Growling Tiger. As I started to put together the songs for Capitalist Blues, 'Money Is King' felt like such a natural fit. I hope you can see the fun that was had in making this video!"
Directed by Nisa East, the video opens with a shot of McCalla singing the opening verse, and cuts away to four men huddled around a table playing several board games including Monopoly and Hungry Hungry Hippos.
Throughout the visual, there are interspersed shots of McCalla and her band, her dancing with an older gentleman on the street, and a dog grabbing a raw steak. Towards the end of the video, the plastic Monopoly houses burn as the four players appear to get contentious with each other and the table is flipped over in anger.
The Capitalist Blues is out on Jan. 25 via Discograph / Jazz Village.