Is it really protest music if the dominant emotion within the songs is hope?
That’s one of the questions raised by the sometimes reflective, sometimes questioning, always uplifting music on The Hope I Hold, the third album by trombonist Ryan Keberle and his socially aware band Catharsis. “I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart/I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars,” sings Camila Meza in “Tangled in the Endless Chain,” a song about the struggle to be free whose title and lyrics (taken, as are those of several songs here, from Langston Hughes’ 1935 poem “Let America Be America Again”) seem to despair of ever achieving freedom. Yet the music itself is anything but disheartening—not just Meza’s voice and guitar, but also Scott Robinson’s lyric tenor sax, soaring over the Latin-tinged 6/4 groove. This isn’t invective against injustice, but the Zen-like transcendence of seeing struggle as merely part of an “endless chain.”