All the songs on the album are about freedom and whatever the opposite of freedom is, within ourselves and in our relationships with others. There’s no shortage of political and personal definitions of freedom. Politicians, whether fascist or democratic, use freedom as a tool, a badge of honor, a gun, a token pin on a lapel. At Auschwitz, ARBEIT MACHT FREI, forged in iron, stood as a warning and a promise at the main entrance gate. Work makes you free. In George Orwell’s 1984, the façade of the Ministry of Truth building has three slogans carved into its concrete: WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. They’re just words, but words resonate and evolve and mutate and become what we want them to mean. Kris Kristofferson sings "Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose." Nothing left to lose is a common state of being where millions of people live.
Cremo Tango was inspired by Tadeusz Borowski’s autobiographical story collection This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, and by the day I spent walking inside Auschwitz-Birkenau. My inspiration for Big City was the pleasure I’ve enjoyed these last few years singing songs with children. The two songs seem natural bookends to me so that’s where they are. Horror and hope, surrender and survival, hate and love, atrocities and possibilities. The songs between are a river of reflections on those themes.
The album is dedicated to Pete Seeger, Maurice Sendak, Lou Reed, and Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker who saved thousands of children from being exterminated.