GRAMMY-nominated artist Joe Troop’s new album is coming August 20 on Free Dirt Records and Rolling Stone has the premiere on his first music video for the album. It’s for his song “Mercy for Migrants,” featuring roots music stars Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn. The song is Troop’s plea for empathy for those trying to cross the US border searching for a better life. The song and video were inspired by the haunting site of a cross in the desert marking the death of a 16 year old boy that Troop came upon while walking the desert to place water for migrants. “Human struggle is human struggle, and the idea of having families and children walking through this Sonoran desert,” Troop says, “when you step foot in it, it takes on new meaning because you see just how terrible that would be.”
With a new president, vaccines rolling out, and massive cultural changes underway, most of us are looking for a moment just to breathe. But not Joe Troop. As the GRAMMY-nominated bandleader for Che Apalache, Troop didn’t stop even for a second as COVID ravaged a whole year’s worth of performance dates. Instead he took to the rural roads of North Carolina and the American South, pushing to get out the vote among rural progressives and interviewing those most affected by Trump’s horrific policies. After a year learning direct action from stalwart progressive organizers, he’s channeling that energy into his first proper solo album. Borrowed Time, out August 20 on Free Dirt Records, may feature big names like Béla Fleck (who produced Che Apalache’s GRAMMY-nominated album), Abigail Washburn, Tim O’Brien, and Charlie Hunter, but the powerful songwriting speaks for itself and is designed to push listeners out of their comfort zones. This is the kind of activism that got Pete Seeger blacklisted, and Troop’s no stranger to controversy, having been chased off stages and threatened for his radical songs. But as an openly gay man growing up playing bluegrass in the South, Troop never had a choice, he had to stand up for what he believed in, no matter the consequences. With Borrowed Time, Troop is doing much more than just bringing together a group of great musicians to embody songs of protest, he’s building on his community of activists and organizers to tell his own story and the stories of those whose voices have been pushed down.