Victor Wainwright and the WildRoots take the listener down the blues highway from Beale Street to the Bayou–Memphis horn soul blues tracks drifting towards the jazzy boogie of New Orleans. Yet, on “Long Way to Go,” songwriter/bassist Stephen Dees has crafted a song to bring us from Egypt to Israel to Memphis, a Beale Street blues for a telescopic history of men who could very well all have sung the blues—Moses, Abraham, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
On the occasion of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2010, “Long Way to Go” rides as a faithful companion, a song sung by Wainwright with intensity—not frivolity. This isn’t list held up like a trivial comparison. Abraham raising up a nation out of such a small group without a land of their own yet, Moses crying out on behalf of God’s people, and King calling on a nation to recognize all of its people. A song of such heady, lofty, and bold comparisons could sound trite, as if too quickly drawn up. But Dees has written, Wainwright sings, and the WildRoots play a deeply felt blues for the Old Testament, for Memphis and the American South, and even hinting at the Gospel blues waiting for Jesus to return again. “We still have a long way to go.”
While the Christian puts hope in Jesus returning and bringing all believers to eternal life, may Christian also see in this song a call to recognize that there’s still a long way to go in this life, a long road of calling out on behalf of others, a long road of raising our voices for equality, justice, and peace. “Oh, we’ve got to change.”