Music Maker Relief Foundation has announced a new album, Hanging Tree Guitars, out 25 September, which explores America’s history with racism and racial violence. It serves as a companion to a book and museum exhibit of the same name by sculptor and guitar-maker Freeman Vines and a series of art-guitars and other pieces made from wood of a tree used for lynchings. The book was written by folklorist Zoe Van Buren and includes tintype photographs by Timothy Duffy.
Included on the album is Johnny Ray Daniels “Somewhere to Lay My Head”. Daniels recorded the track using a guitar made by Vines, who says of the musician, “Johnny Ray Daniels is number one in my book, no one can touch him as a guitar player. No matter how hard you try you cannot make a chord he is making because you will miss it. He chords different than anyone else. He is impossible to mimic. His daddy, Brother Jarvis Daniels, was the same way, just an incredible guitar player. You look at their hands it seems like they are doing nothing, but so much music is coming out of that guitar, it’s like Dag and Double Dag, no one can touch him.”
Daniels’ music is rooted in the South, with intersections of the blues and gospel. “Somewhere to Lay My Head” is at once somber and uplifting and a powerful reminder of the rich tapestry of American music and perhaps a momentary reprieve from worries of the world.