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Speed the Plough Members Team with Mayssa Jallad for "Rush Hour" (premiere)

Photo: George Kopp

Caught in a pandemic, Speed the Plough's Baumgartners turned to a faraway musical friend for a collaboration on "Rush Hour" that speaks to the strife and circumstance of our time.

"Rush Hour (An Inadvertent Meditation for a Friend)" is a collaboration between Speed the Plough's John and Toni Baumgartner featuring Beirut based vocalist Mayssa Jallad of the band Safar. A sweeping, delicate track, it accentuates the refined musical sensibilities of Speed the Plough (dashes of folk, classical) with a world-inspired, otherworldly performance from Jallad. It is a brief but potent reminder of life's fragility, whether in this time or another.

Speaking from their home in New Jersey, the Baumgarnters point out that they had intended to begin work on new Speed the Plough music when the 2020 pandemic hit. "We had to find people who could accommodate us long distance," says John.

The pair had the basis for "Rush Hour" and had contemplated keeping the song an instrumental until they remembered Jallad, whose band had shared bills with Speed the Plough. "They were doing an Instagram interview while we were in serious lockdown", John recalls. "I jumped in on the conversation and asked Mayssa if she'd like to sing on this track."

Around the same time, Speed the Plough had lost a close friend and fan to COVID-19. "Mayssa turned the song into something about loss and the world we're in," notes John. "Her singing the song in Arabic was poignant and wonderful," Toni recalls. "She asked us if we wanted her to sing it in English and we said she should keep it as it is. I think the lyrics can transcend any emotionally difficult time for anybody."

Speed the Plough have another track, "Just Because You Can". They will continue releasing new music via Bandcamp in the coming months, with a physical album to follow, most likely in spring. The as-yet unnamed project will also include contributions by former Speed the Plough members Brenda Sauter and Rich Barnes, Matt Davis of the Thousand Pities, and others.

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