Countrys bitter portraits of a sick America
Steve Earles new album is called The Revolution Starts Now. Its country music, recorded in Nashville.
Steve Earle is from Texas. Since getting out of jail and off drugs in 1995, hes released a string of fantastic albums, the anti-establishment leanings have been getting more and more pronounced.
The latest leaves you in no doubt where he stands. The title track is superb. Accompanied by blistering guitars, his Texas drawl rumbles:
The revolution starts now
In your own backyard
In your own hometown
So what you doin standin around?
Hes singing about your life, about how it feels to be part of a great mass movement, to have hope. He really knows how it feels. He was on the recent protest at the Republican Party convention in New York.
Next up is a lively rockabilly number about a trucker now driving convoys across occupied Iraq, dodging RPGs and praying hell get back home. It fleshes out the American saying, Rich mans warpoor mans fight.
The seven political songs include a deranged love song to Condoleezza Rice, and an outspoken defence of free speech. The chorus goes,
Fuck the FBI
Fuck the CIA
Livin in the motherfuckin USA
Not much danger of George Dubya accidentally using this one in a campaign. There is all this, plus a couple of moody torch songs and a duet with Emmylou Harris.
Needless to say, papers which really like Steve Earle when hes singing about other wars (like Vietnam) or opposing other government policies cant stand this album.
Earles website calls for fans to organise public events to listen to the record and discuss the issues it raises.
Steve now also has a weekly radio show on Sundays on www.airamericaradio.com.
Another standout anti-Bush album is Political Manifest by The Creekdippers, centred on Mark Olson and Victoria Williams. Songs like Where is My Baby Boy? (gone to the war) and the fantastic Portrait of a Sick America combine a relaxed vibe with seething anger and bitter, mocking humour.
The End of the Highway is a lilting country waltz that invites Donald Rumsfeld to die.
Both these records reflect the debate on the American left about what the alternative to Bush is, mixing desperation to get rid of George W with uncertainty about the Democrats, or about any other alternative.
But, hey, we can talk about that.
Many other artists dip toes where these two jump right in.
From Socialist Worker