What is folk music supposed to sound like in 2021? In the case of Lula Wiles, the New England trio comprising Isa Burke, Mali Obomsawin, and Eleanor Buckland, the answer can be found in some combination of murky guitar-rock, haunting three-part roots harmony, and bold truth-to-power narratives that condemn the obscenely wealthy and powerful.
Case in point: “Oh My God,” the latest single from the group’s terrific upcoming album, Shame & Sedition. Arriving two years after the group’s Smithsonian Folkways debut, 2019’s What Will We Do, this collection is poised to take the group far beyond the traditional confines of acoustic singer-songwriter music. “Oh My God” is the band’s most convincing argument for that progression yet: a sharp takedown, riotous and righteous, of a larger-than-life exploiter with an inflated-ego figure whose power has made them feel immune to criticism.
Pay attention to really any of the lines from “Oh My God,” and it becomes abundantly clear that the target of Lula Wiles’ ire is no mere personal grudge. “Your insidious extraction won’t protect you now,” Burke sings, before leading the band into a radio-gold chorus so catchy it becomes easy to forget that Lula Wiles is singing, as they put it, about the “inevitable downfall of capitalism.”
Burke has said she wrote the song in the spring of 2020, when it became clear that the pandemic was perversely proving to be a boom time for billionaire CEOs like Jeff Bezos. “I decided to get really mad,” she said, “but make it fun.” On “Oh My God,” Lula Wiles offers a potent mix of sign-of-the-times analysis, stirring songwriting, and instant pop melodicism. Critiquing the top .01 percent has never sounded so good.
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