Diana Jones invited her three musical heroes to sing verses on this song, and they all said yes
“I believe that your eyes are tired of crying,” she sings. It’s the first line of “We Believe You,” by Diana Jones, a remarkable song and record we’re proud to share with you today.
It was written and performed by Diana Jones and features Steve Earle, Richard Thompson and Peggy Seeger.
It was the last song written and recorded for Song To A Refugee, her sixth solo album. It was produced by David Mansfield, the great multi-instrumentalist who has played with Dylan, Johnny Cash, Nanci Griffith and many others. He also composed scores for several movies, including Heaven’s Gate, in which he also appears, playing fiddle on roller-skates. He plays many different instruments on these tracks.
The album is a song cycle written in response to the refugee crisis around the world, and that at our own border. It was the demonization of refugees coming to America, and the horror of witnessing children torn from the arms of mothers in America, that led to this song. She thought she had already finished the album, as she recalled:
“I was finished recording and mixing the record,” said Diana. “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had come back from the border where she visited a women’s detention center and she gave a testimony. And she kept repeating that she believed the women when they told her their stories and concerns. She believed them.”
In that moment, this song got busy being born.
“The importance of being believed,” she said, “struck me. Especially for such a traumatized population. I grabbed my tenor guitar and headed for Thompkins Square park at the end of my street and the song came like some do; it fell down to me and I caught it and I knew I was heading back into the studio to truly finish the record.”
Though this song fit in with the others on the album, it also stood out. She knew it had dimensions unlike the others, and honored that understanding.
“When I wrote `We Believe You,'” she said, “there were clear voices, not my own, singing on the verses in my head. All three were artists I had first admired and learned from over the years, and later I got to know and work with each of them.
It was somewhat of a holy musical trinity, uniting three of her musical heroes. She invited all three to sing on the record. Steve Earle, Richard Thompson and Peggy Seeger. They all said yes.
All of them agreed because they are true believers – in songs for social justice, and also in the singular greatness of this songwriter.
“Diana Jones,” said Steve Earle, “is one of the best songwriters I’ve heard in the last ten years.”
Richard Thompson agreed.
“Diana Jones,” he said, “sounds like no one else.”
Asked to explain what each of these musicians meant to her, Diana offered the following reflections.
DIANA JONES: “It seems like I was always a Steve Earle fan. I learned so much from listening to how he put a song together. Joan Baez cut my song “Henry Russell’s Last Words” on her record Day After Tomorrow” which Steve produced.
Then Steve and I did a BBC 4 television show together and then a Woody Guthrie tribute in NYC. Steve came to Steve Addabbo’s studio in Chelsea and it was wonderful experience to be in the studio with both of them.
I first met Peggy Seeger in 2006 when I opened for her at The Old Town School of Music in Chicago. She came into my dressing room and immediately started teaching me the chords to one of her songs. I played that song with her for her encore and she grabbed my hand and held it up with hers and let me share her standing ovation.
After that we became friends. I love her work and her spirit. The world is such a richer place with Peggy Seeger in it.
As I wrote the verse about the mother I could hear Peggy singing it.”