This is an exclusive song premiere, part of The ARTery's effort to highlight New England musicians.
“Blanket On The Moon,” by Chadwick Stokes & The Pintos, begins with the sounds of science fiction, a symphony of whimsical electronic bleeps and whirs. Then, the roar of a rocket, followed by Stokes’ voice, close and intimate, while a banjo plunks gently in the background. He begins to spin a story: about a child, and the moon, and a mother who wants desperately to give her child something more. “A better life awaits you,” she sings, before departing.
Stokes wrote the song about the wrenching choice many parents make to send their children unaccompanied across the southern border in search of opportunity or to escape danger at home. “They’re putting them next to a railroad track or in the hands of smugglers,” Stokes says on the phone, “just hoping that they make it to the other side, and are accepted.” There’s a mythical quality to “Blanket On The Moon,” which unfolds in outer space. The setting lends the story vastness and mystery, while the details are familiar and heart-wrenching. There’s the rocket ship, and then there’s the blanket, the last relic of a life left behind.
“Blanket On The Moon” is the third single off of Stokes’ new album, “Chadwick Stokes & The Pintos,” which comes out Nov. 15. It's not, strictly speaking, a solo album — the songs are Stokes’, but the Pintos are a band. They worked the arrangements out live, on the road, and recorded the album in a studio in Brighton. “A beautiful little room in an old barn,” Stokes says, “that is surely going to be knocked down by the board of health any second.”
Stokes is best known as a founding member of Dispatch, the popular late ‘90s conscious rock group. They formed in college at Middlebury in Vermont, then relocated to Boston afterward. Since the band went on hiatus in 2004, Stokes has immersed himself in numerous projects, including the politically-minded rock group State Radio, two solo studio albums and a number of social justice causes. Like his previous work, “Chadwick Stokes & the Pintos” concerns itself with the politics of the day. The first two singles look for contemporary resonances in historical figures and events: “Chaska,” about the mass execution in 1862 of 38 Dakota men, highlights the injustice and brutality of state-sanctioned violence, and “Joan of Arc” finds common cause between the historical figure and modern women.
“I’ve always loved the smaller stories … that give that political message, without necessarily shouting that exact political message,” Stokes says. “Which can be a little too on-the-head sometimes.”
Stokes began writing “Blanket On The Moon” on the piano. “As it started developing, it had some David Bowie starlight twinkling in the background,” he says. The song’s epic sweep is, indeed, reminiscent of Bowie, or “Wish You Were Here”-era Pink Floyd, ramping up to an explosive climax before retreating. It ends the way it begins — on a melancholic note, tinged with hope. “A better life awaits you soon.”
This article was originally published on October 18, 2019.