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Songs in the Key of Free updates & the fight against COVID-19

Songs in the Key of Free is so excited to announce the launch of our album, Songs in the Key of Free, recorded inside a maximum-security prison in Montgomery County, PA

over 3 years. We’re finishing up mixing some tracks, but will be releasing singles very soon in conjunction with our podcast “Prison Prophets: Songs from the Heart of the Penitentiary,” recorded inside the same prison.

Our first single is “I Still Cry,” written by Bizzy Blackwell, who is serving life; it’s a powerful song about redemption and forgiveness. You’ll hear Blackwell on the podcast telling the story of writing the song. He performed it and recorded it on a tape recorder inside a stairwell at the prison (to get some measure of quiet) literally hours after he wrote it.

Bizzy Blackwell and his beloved guitar
Bizzy Blackwell and his beloved guitar

During this time of Covid-19, we’re very concerned for the health of the men of Songs in the Key of Free, many of whom are in their 50s and 60s, and have been in prison their entire adult lives. Some are medically vulnerable or immunocompromised after experiencing cancer, heart disease and other illnesses during their incarceration. We’re advocating for the release of elders in prison, including those convicted of violent crimes. One of the foundations of our podcast is a focus on our culture's tendency to assign a lifelong inherent criminality to those who have committed crimes of violence, even though they may have led exemplary lives for 30 or 40 years since their crime. On the podcast, you'll hear stories from these men that reveal them as deeply human, brilliant and filled with hope. In Pennsylvania, a life sentence does not allow for the possibility of parole, and Songs, among many others, has been advocating to change that. No one should be defined by the worst thing they ever did. We send strength and support to our incarcerated brothers and sisters and we stand with them.

Art provided by Thomas Schilk, Prison Prophets co-host
Art provided by Thomas Schilk, Prison Prophets co-host

Check out this profoundly beautiful story, “A Drink to Forget,” written by Tom Schilk and read by John Francis.

Songs in the Key of Free is a nonprofit that challenges mass incarceration through collaborative arts practice; we partner with incarcerated musicians and artists to create and record music inside prisons.

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