This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 2/99
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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This just in: David Rovics will not, I repeat, will not, be headlining any musical benefits for Steve Forbes' upcoming presidential campaign. He may, in fact, be inclined to perform concerts for the Green Party or Peace and Freedom Party presidential candidates but I think we can safely say he won't be driving a Ford from event to event. Now back to our regularly scheduled offering.
Rovics, in this, the second of his two recently issued CDs, houses his liberal political and economic sentiments (i.e., pro-union, anti-military, pro-marijuana, anti-oil companies, pro-environment, anti-consumerism, pro-mass transit, anti-development) in sometimes inspiring, sometimes humorous, sometimes angry casings. While not offering any particular insights (this is a musical release not a political treatise) he never hesitates to provide a laser beam intense spotlight on his core beliefs and values. You won't finish any of these cuts wondering what he truly feels about his subject matter.
Definitely carrying on in the tradition of Woody Guthrie and Utah Phillips and actually sounding like a younger Arlo Guthrie on certain cuts, Rovics is at his best when colorfully depicting real life events or individuals.
In "The Death of David Chain," he tackles various subjects: the simplicity, typically black and white with no shades of gray, in the media portrayal of complex issues; greed at the expense of natural resources; abuses of power; and governmental environmental neglect. The song, an unfortunately true story about a lumberjack felling a tree that falls on and kills an environmental activist, is presented with a fiery mixture of anger and righteousness.
"Song for Hugh Thomson" salutes a dedicated military helicopter pilot who, while out on patrol, happened upon the My Lai massacre in progress and decided he had to do what was morally right, regardless of the consequences. He set his chopper down and upon determining what was taking place, ordered his crew to protect the remaining village inhabitants. To do so, meant his crew training their guns on the soliders carrying out the butchery. After some tense moments, the bloodbath ended. How Thomson's story came to light is both timely and curious: he was awarded for his bravery by the United States government last year--just before the government of Vietnam was preparing to do the same. The percussion on this cut magically simulates the sound of a helicopter in flight and boosts the forcefulness and gravitas of this story.
Rovics utilizes the old "Joe Hill" tune, with a lyrical rewrite, in the touching "Judi Bari," a tribute to the Headwaters forest activist who succumbed to breast cancer in 1997. Bari, a major environmental figure on California's North Coast and a heroine to many for her steadfast willingness to stand up for her beliefs, amazingly survived a car bombing while on the way to a political demonstration. She did, however, suffer partial paralysis as a result. The perpetrators of the bombing remain unknown to this day since the FBI and the Oakland (CA) police steadfastly accuse Bari and a companion of transporting explosives and being responsible for the mishap.
The title cut "We Just Want the World" is a catchy, actually danceable manifesto about the Shangri-la destined to be once "we" are in charge. "We" will turn towards sustainable energy resources, leave the trees in the ground and grow hemp, clean the rivers and oceans, and end the proliferation of highway building, strip malls and haphazard growth.
Rovics savages Detroit's most (in)famous automobile figure for both his anti-Semitism and for selling tanks to the Nazis and to South American military juntas, in "Henry Ford was a Fascist." According to Rovics, Ford's sympathetic feelings and similar political beliefs to the Nazis and the junta leaders and, of course, his desire to make more and more money, were the driving forces behind these unscrupulous and damning actions.
"Glory and Fame," alternately called "Labor History 101" by Rovics, is a rousing anthem blasting the anonymity of the ordinary Joe who does the everyday "dirty work" necessary to keep society functioning without receiving commensurate financial rewards or public acknowledgement. He also lauds the majestic and heroic efforts of those unknown, past and present, in South Africa, 1930s Spain, Chiapas, China, the United States, et al, who willingly fought and died and continue to fight and die for freedom, justice and the betterment of others. As Rovics movingly sings, "tell me, who am I? do you know my name? will I lie forgotten or arise in glory and fame? someday, my time will come and you'll have to step aside..."
This release is in-your-face, no punches pulled discourse, something too often missing from the folk music scene.There is no secret message here--no need to play this release backwards for its hidden meaning because it's all out front. You may agree or disagree with Rovics' political leanings but you have to admire his honesty and earnestness. Rovics also displays the knack for pulling in a little percussion here, some fiddle there, a bit of banjo, a touch of harmony--all enhancing the overall sound and quality of the music.
Rovics, on guitar and vocals, is backed by Eric Royer on banjo, Sean Staples on mandolin, Ken Porter on percussion, Rich Caloggero on guitar, Joe Kessler on fiddle, Matthias Lupri on drums and percussion, Timo Shanko on stand-up bass, Perry Yeldham on electric bass, Kris Delmhorst on cello, Holbrook Gracia on percussion, guitar and bass, and Peter and Laurie Siegel on vocal harmony.
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