Mention folk music to the average listener and the list of usual suspects come to mind: Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Woody Guthrie, etc. Talk to SOJA lead singer/guitarist Jacob Hemphill, however, and you’ll walk away with a different perspective. “To me, Rage Against The Machine, Wu-Tang Clan, Sade, Johnny Cash, Bob Marley – they’re all folk artists,” he says. “There’s no difference between Raekwon saying, ‘I grew up on the crime side, the New York Times side, where staying alive was no jive,’ to Bob Marley saying, ‘Cold ground was my bed last night and rock was my pillow, too,’ to Johnny Cash saying, ‘I know I had it coming, I know I can’t be free, but those people keep on moving (around) and that’s what tortures me.’ Folk is all about storytelling and passing on a legacy. It’s timeless, it’s limitless and it crosses all boundaries. That’s what this band is striving for. It’s a tall order,” he laughs, “but we’re making our way.”
They’ve raised the bar with Strength to Survive, their fourth full-length album, an intoxicating mix of hot-rod reggae grooves and urgent, zeitgeist-capturing themes.