Baltimore spoken word artist Anthony Parker, known as Wordsmith, and Nashville-based pianist and composer Kory Caudill are on a journey to create music with meaning.
The duo’s Concert for the Human Family Tour, which will stop at Canton’s Church on the Square on May 6, brings together musicians of different backgrounds and genres to play in cathedrals across the country.
Caudill, an eastern Kentucky native – “About as deep in rural Appalachia as you can get without hitting a dead end,” he said – met Wordsmith while on tour with country music singer Justin Moore.
The two began a creative partnership and, in 2021, produced “Progressions,” an EP born of the tumultuous events of the previous year, including the police killing of George Floyd and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“’Progressions’ is where the world needs to continue to go,” Wordsmith said. “We need to do things to push society forward. We don’t want to be stagnant.”
When a friend from Kentucky who works for the Episcopal Church told Caudill that the church was looking for ways to bring the community together, he began imagining what it would look like to create music for religious spaces, without the religious undertones.
The concept snowballed into the Concert for the Human Family series, with Wordsmith as the vocalist and Caudill in charge of the instrumental music.
“We had the chance to do something that would actually impact the community,” Caudill said. “We wanted the concerts to be a vehicle to inspire folks to strengthen the communities and be able to have difficult conversations without feeling like they’re coming to church.”
“The music has a message and Wordsmith is the primary deliverer of the message,” he added.
The series began with live-streamed concerts in churches such as St. Bartholomew’s in Manhattan. Last month, the duo – along with other musicians, including Blessing Offor and Grammy-winning country singer Pam Tillis – kicked off the in-person concert series at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston.
Each concert is a 75-minute full band set with a blend of instrumental covers and original pieces by Wordsmith and Caudill. Songs from “Progressions,” such as “Anthony’s Song” – about the murder of British teenager Anthony Walker in 2005 – will be performed, touching on topics like racial reconciliation.
For Wordsmith, the Baltimore show will be a homecoming.
The rapper and philanthropist, whose father was an Army colonel, was born in Germany. He spent the first 18 years of his life moving around, living in seven different places before landing in Baltimore.
Wordsmith has called Baltimore home for over 20 years, taking on an integral role in the community during that time.
Wordsmith, who is an official Artistic Partner of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and founder of the Baltimore-based nonprofit Rise with a Purpose, aims to use his success to drive change in the city.
“I’m that bridge to the underserved community,” he said.
He regularly interacts with the community, giving out food, toiletries, and other supplies to the city’s homeless community on the 1100 block of Lawrence Street, “one of the tougher streets out here,” he said.
“It’s really in my heart to not just be a one-dimensional musician, but a musician that reaches my own personal success and looks back and says, ‘How can I help my community?’” Wordsmith said.
Caudill and Wordsmith are in a long-distance creative partnership, separated by both their physical locations and the pandemic. They often record remotely, sending each other ideas online.
Wordsmith’s creative process exists primarily in his mind, he said: “I have a continuous rolodex in my head. That’s how the words roll.”
When he first started out, he would write everything down, but found himself feeling boxed in. “If I had my way, I wouldn’t put anything down on paper, but we do have to have lyrics,” he said.
As his career has evolved, he’s opted for a looser approach, piecing lyrics together over a few hours or days.
“I love that creation can come in that manner,” he said. “When things are more organic, they flow cleaner, they’re more fluid.”
While traveling around the East Coast on their Concert for the Human Family Tour, Wordsmith and Caudill will continue working on their next venture: a full album.
“We’re always working on something,” Wordsmith said. “It’s never-ending, because life is never-ending. It’s always evolving.”
Tickets for the Baltimore show cost $20 apiece and are on sale now.