A Review of the Rod MacDonald CD

by Rod MacDonald

Copyright 2003
Wind River Records

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 6/04
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Rod MacDonald is an exceptionally talented and valuable social commentator--in his case, employing songs as his vehicle of transmission rather than a blog, book, newspaper column or television show. A long ago Newsweek reporter and even longer ago law school graduate, this former New York City (now Floridian) folkie's latest release is brimming with offerings that shine light and meaning on current and historical, remembered and forgotten, people and events.

Known for such past signature songs as "The Death Of Victor Jara," "American Jerusalem," "Timothy," "The Way To Calvary" and "Who Built The Bomb That Blew Down Oklahoma City," MacDonald continues his deft touch with insightful and nuanced cuts about the 9/11 terrorists, the Columbine shootings, capital punishment Texas-style, a Vincent Van Gogh painting, numerous foreign deeds of questionable morality involving the government of the United States and a look at the bombardier of the plane that flew over Hiroshima in 1945.

But this is not a concept-style album with a primary theme as he also includes a number of love songs, delves into marital abuse, takes a jab at Disneyworld, provides a quizzical but charming baseball tale and also a salute to the music of Eire.

Due to its scope, the most arresting song is "For The Good Of America." MacDonald twines JFK's assassination by a very questionable marksman, the fabrication of the Tonkin Gulf incident that provided the cachet to begin sending thousands upon thousands of U.S. troops to Vietnam, CIA assistance in the assassination of democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende and the resulting murders of uncountable 'leftists,' and, finally, the arms-for-hostages deal that resulted in Iran releasing U.S. hostages soon after the election of the late Ronald Reagan. He closes this most rhythmic song:
"...So remember sometime in your future
some pretender will want to be your leader one day
first he'll tell you how all your votes just disappeared
then step up to the microphone and give himself away when he says

For the good of America just forget it
'cause it's time to move on
but the truth is, you know it when you hear it
their lips are moving but they're doing you wrong"
"My Neighbors In Delray" begins with the mundane day-to-day activities of the 9/11 Florida contingent. But rather than traveling the simplistic, kneejerk and jingoistic path in response to the horrors of 9/11, MacDonald, because he's a much too mature and talented songwriter, simply keeps asking wouldn't it be good to know what God thinks of the hijacker's actions. Then, he concludes:
"...but if my neighbors in Delray are in Paradise today
it would very much surprise me

'Love thy neighbor,' the Bible says
'God is great,' the prophets say
don't you really know what God will say
to my neighbors in Delray"
"Video Game" skewers rather than frontally assaults that violence-depicting industry. MacDonald describes a player: "...if it was real he'd be insane, but it was just a video game" and "(He) hit a hospital by accident, took out the radio tower's blinking lights, he pretended it was Belgrade but it was a video game." MacDonald later sings: "you talk about your freedom as if weapons were your wealth."

"137 Executions (Not One Innocent Man)" IS a directly-aimed blast at George W. Bush's track record while governor of Texas. It asks how he and the entire system could not find even one death row inmate worthy of commutation at worse, or determined innocent at best. In light of numerous investigations and rulings across the country, especially in Illinois, where death sentences have been revoked and, in some cases, actual innocence determined, MacDonald concludes:
"...Tell me, how does it feel to have blood on your hands?..."
"The Man Who Dropped The Bomb On Hiroshima" surprisingly doesn't really come with a fixed point of view. In it, it's revealed that the military withheld the information from the fliers about the nature of the payload. The bombardier believes his actions were appropriate but adds:
"Someday, when I meet my maker
I'll know if my one big thing was right..."
The rocking and ironic-ending "Dr. Gachet," is an enjoyable history about the ownership, viewing availability and financial value of one of Van Gogh's most famous paintings. Also worthy of mention is MacDonald's touching paean to his wife, "You Who Sleep Beside Me."

This is a release with so much to offer and rightfully deserves to be heard by the widest of audiences.

Rod MacDonald, on vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonica is backed by Mark Dann on bass and harony vocals; Steve Erikssen on acoustic and electric guitars and harmony vocals; Bernie Shanahan on piano, keyboards and harmony vocals; Craig Harris on percussion; Francis Rovelli on harmony vocals; and Susan McKeown on harmony vocals.

Track List:

All songs by Rod MacDonald, except as indicated.

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