It's that second sort that interests Benjamin Booker in "Witness," the title track from the follow-up to his explosive 2014 debut. The New Orleans-based songwriter — who's favored a sound like the blues, soul and rock 'n' roll mixed with gasoline and a lit cigarette — leans into more explicitly gospel territory here, letting his strepitous guitar take a backseat to an upright-piano melody and choral harmonies. Booker mourns violence against black bodies and hints at the insidious consequences of bearing false witness: "Thought that we saw that he had a gun / Thought that it looked like he started to run." Meanwhile, Mavis Staples sings the song's chorus, lending her typical moral urgency to its central question: "Am I going to be a witness ... just going to be a witness?"
But as I met with the 9/11 families and wrestled with issues surrounding the valuation of lives lost, I began to question this basic premise of our legal system. Trained in the law, I had always accepted that no two lives were worth the same in financial terms. But now I found the law in conflict with my growing belief in the equality of all life. "Mr. Feinberg, my husband was a fireman and died a hero at the World Trade Center. Why are you giving me less money than the banker who represented Enron? Why are you demeaning the memory of my husband?"