[Cover photo credit to Tom Sheehan]
When British musician Jack Henderson first heard of the REDress Project in 2019, he was inspired to write the song “Red Dress” about missing native American women from Canada and the United States and the international abuse and exploitation of women. The song is being released on May 5th, 2022, on Fretsore Records and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to charity.
In 2010, the Native Canadian artist Jaime Black instituted the REDress Project where she hung red dresses in public spaces and university campuses around Canada and the United States to raise awareness around the issue of missing or murdered Aboriginal women across Canada. The aim of her installations was to provide, “a visual reminder of the staggering number of women who are no longer with us … and evoke a presence through the marking of absence.”
Henderson comments on the song and its inspiration:
Tragically, the abuse and exploitation of women remains an international problem. ’Red Dress’ extends the symbol of the red dress used in Black’s work to raise awareness of murdered and missing indigenous women to raise a voice for women who have been abused, trafficked or murdered everywhere.
When Fretsore Records’ managing director Ian Sephton heard Henderson perform “Red Dress” and insisted that it be recorded “at the earliest opportunity”. The initial mix, recorded at his studio in Scotland, had Henderson singing all the vocals but friend Karin Bergquist of Cincinnati band Over The Rhine was then asked to contribute backing vocals. Bergquist’s backing vocals had to be recorded remotely in the U.S. and sent to Jack due to pandemic travel bans.
Henderson, best known for his years touring with Over The Rhine and Canadian outfit Cowboy Junkies, sings, plays guitars and Hammond B3 on the haunting, contemporary ballad. The recording also features Canadian Mattie Foulds (Karine Polwart, Kate Rusby), on drums and Scottish bass player Kevin McGuire (Eddi Reader, Karen Matheson).
I’m only too pleased if in some small way this song helps keep the issue in the public awareness. I’m not trying to be sanctimonious and am acutely aware that violence and abuse against women is a serious cultural issue within many of our societies. A red dress has specific implications to Indigenous American cultures, but I also want to extend Jaime Black’s powerful symbolism to the wider cultural issue.