The dire lack of affordable housing and a sharply rising inequity gap are driving San Francisco's homeless population to numbers not seen for 15 years with more than 8,000 people living on the city streets. Statewide, California has 129,972 homeless people (2018), the largest street population of any state (source: Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle, May 16, 2019).
Joining the fight to help San Francisco's homelessness crisis are many of the city's musicians banding together for the recording of a singular benefit album, Blanket The Homeless. The full-length studio album features 15 original songs (all of which have yet to be officially released by the artists; except Fantastic Negrito's "Working Poor") recorded by Marin-based producer-songwriter Scott Mickelson. Blanket The Homeless includes new tracks by Fantastic Negrito; The Stone Foxes; Tim Bluhm (of The Mother Hips); Con Brio; Goodnight, Texas; The Brothers Comatose; Mickelson; Rainbow Girls; John Craigie; Marty O'Reilly & The Old Soul Orchestra; King Dream; The Coffis Brothers; Tobias The Owl; Ken Newman; and Whiskerman. A double LP release concert with performances by select artists on Blanket The Homeless including King Dream, Mickelson, Members of Goodnight, Texas, Ken Newman, and soon to be announced special guests will take place at The Independent (SF) on Nov. 7 (8 pm, Tickets: $15/$17).
Mickelson finds himself in the producer's chair for another benefit recording project that's close to his heart. Blanket The Homeless follows his critically acclaimed 2017 After The Fire: Vol. 1 album that raised thousands of dollars for Creative Sonoma and Undocufund.org after the devastating Northern California wildfires. Mickelson teams up with entrepreneur Ken Newman for Blanket The Homeless—Newman is a local musician and the co-founder of Blanket The Homeless, an organization now working in partnership with St. Vincent de Paul Society of San Francisco, a 501(c)(3) non-profit.
Blanket The Homeless—Featured Compositions
Blanket The Homeless opens with the infamous San Francisco rock band The Stone Foxes laying down a raw rendition of the brand new track, "Million Dollar Shoes." Hunkered down in the studio for two sessions, Mickelson delved into a vibey production style dripping with ethereal vocals and rock guitar-laden riffs by brothers Shannon Koehler (vocals, drums) and Spence Koehler (guitar, bass).
The sole artist to record vocals and guitar both live was songwriter Tim Bluhm of The Mother Hips. A solo version of The Mother Hips song "Clean Me Up," Bluhm strips it down as he sings about a drifter asking for some help to clean up as he hopes for better days ahead.
Blanket The Homeless continues with blues powerhouse Fantastic Negrito's "Working Poor," a depiction of the extreme challenges of living in an expensive city with a very low income. "Working Poor" is one of only two tracks not recorded with Mickelson at the production helm for Blanket The Homeless. It appears on Fantastic Negrito's album, The Last Days of Oakland.
In the moments where Mickelson was not fully immersed in the production of Blanket The Homeless, he was churning out an original song pointing to the fact that homeless people each have their own personal stories that must be recognized. On "Odd Man Out," Mickelson sings of someone who's always on the sidelines of the normal stream of everyday folks. Whether it's by choice or bad luck, he's able to keep a sense of humor and self-assurance.
Oakland's rock outfit Whiskerman came into the studio to record an anthem of soaring guitars amid lead singer Graham Patzner’s wailing falsetto vocals on "U.S.M.E." ("United States of Mother Earth"). Whiskerman encourages us on "U.S.M.E." to live in a more unified world and the need we have for being together in our collective pursuit of happiness. Tobias The Owl out of Seattle contributes the track "Out of Place" on Blanket The Homeless. A true survivor of himself living on the streets as a teenager, Tobias lifted his life up to become a radiologist and then a songwriter. In the song "We Should Do This Again," Ken Newman chronicles a conversation with a homeless person. Newman touches home with an intimate account of love, loss and hope on his harmony vocal and piano driven track.