Socialist Worker

Refreshingly hard hitting songs for hard hitting times

by Jimmy Ross
Issue No. 1985

Brave Faces cover

Brave Faces cover

In the world of what is known as folk or roots music, performers often seem to be more concerned with being part of the heritage industry than relating to contemporary political movements.

Rory McLeod and Alistair Hulett are two singer-songwriters on the folk circuit who have no doubts about which side they are on.

Both have new CDs out which are not only musically exciting but also fiercely politically committed.

If you’ve been put off folk music by the folk playing it, listening to these might change your mind.

In his newly released Brave Faces, McLeod’s musical styles range from calypso/steel band to voice-percussion accompanied yodelling. It works, honest. He tackles the Iraq war in No More Blood for Oil:

“No more blood for oil,
No more killing for those rich corporations and laws,
It’s you not us,
We’re not disturbing the peace,
But we are disturbing the war.”

And in the Ballad of the Burston School Strike he celebrates the events of 1914 in the village of Burston where pupils responded to the sackings of their socialist teachers by boycotting the school in protest.

Climate change and domestic violence are also featured in songs that are challenging but never worthy or dull.

Hulett, in Riches and Rags, points out the contemporary resonances of older songs by dedicating the 19th century ballad The Recruited Collier to Rose Gentle and Cindy Sheehan — “mothers of soldiers who are now in the forefront of the struggle for justice in the Middle East”.

With its mixture of sensitively presented traditional material, blues, jug band music and his own hard hitting political songs like Criminal Justice and Militant Red, Riches and Rags is a refreshing reminder that the spirit of resistance and revolt pioneered by singers like Woody Guthrie and Phil Ochs is still with us.

Albums available from and

Riches and Rags cover

Riches and Rags cover

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Article information

Sat 28 Jan 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1985
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