By Stephen Angell
Jon Watts is a post-modern George Fox, or Solomon Eccles. (Fox was the 17th century founder of the Quakers, Eccles a Quaker and contemporary of Fox given to prophetic actions such as stripping himself naked and running through the streets with a basket of hot coals on his head.) Like them, he is both prophetic and radical. Also like them, he is well rooted, but not lost, in the past (Christian or Quaker tradition), and is firmly devoted to speaking challengingly to his times. His rap poetry is exquisite and well suited to the delivery of a radical Quaker message, with gorgeous chords in the background that do not overwhelm the spoken word.
This album is a poignant combination of the social, spiritual, and personal, a paean to simplicity and a radical critique of consumerism. It includes both a lament of lost love and a reminder of the Inner Light that all possess – that means we are all loved. Youthful like Fox was when the Quaker movement had its Pentecost in the early 1650s, Watts ends with a moving tribute to his elders. You’ll want to listen many times, and let the music and message soak in.
Steve Angell is the Geraldine Leatherock Professor of Quaker Studies at Earlham School of Religion.