Socialist Worker

Country’s bitter portraits of a sick America

by Simon Joyce
Issue No. 1918

Steve Earle’s new album is called The Revolution Starts Now. It’s country music, recorded in Nashville.

Steve Earle is from Texas. Since getting out of jail and off drugs in 1995, he’s 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?”

He’s 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 he’ll get back home. It fleshes out the American saying, “Rich man’s war—poor man’s 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 he’s singing about other wars (like Vietnam) or opposing other government policies can’t stand this album.

Earle’s 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.


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Reviews
Sat 11 Sep 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1918
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