music tech

Simple sounds for hard times

The fall­out of greed and incom­pe­tence is once again trick­ling down to Main Street. Kiss my ass, you greedy Wall Street bas­tards. And you bureau­crats and cronies can kiss my ass, too. Is there any­one out there who thinks beyond the cur­rent eco­nom­ic cycle? Any­one? Is any­one try­ing to do any­thing oth­er than make them­selves rich, or keep their friends in office? Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrg. When I got laid off in 2001, I did a lot of soul-search­ing, ate a lot of Can­cun veg­gie bur­ri­tos (they were $3.29; they're $4.99 now), and did a lot of read­ing at Green Apple. One after­noon, I came across Woody Guthrie's auto­bi­og­ra­phy, Bound for Glo­ry. Now there was a guy who knows a thing or two about hard times. The title is deeply iron­ic, as Guthrie expe­ri­enced a lot of hard­ship, but through it all he had deep con­fi­dence in him­self and deep faith that he would do great things. Greed, incom­pe­tence and bad luck afflict­ed him, (and mil­lions of oth­ers), but life goes on. And if you're a per­son like Woody Guthrie, you take the hard les­son and you turn it into some­thing like Dust Bowl Bal­lads.[You should see a lit­tle Flash play­er below each song title; apolo­gies if you don't. Work­ing on it].

Woody Guthrie, "I ain't got no home" [Download]

[audio:guthrie_home.mp3] Of course, I was nev­er close to being caught out on a lit­er­al road with oth­er lit­er­al­ly dis­placed peo­ple, but this pas­sage deeply affect­ed me:

My broth­ers and my sis­ters are strand­ed on this road,A hot and dusty road that a mil­lion feet have trod;Rich man took my home and drove me from my doorAnd I ain't got no home in this world anymore.

2001 was no Dust Bowl, and I was nowhere near as des­ti­tute as Tom Joad. But the feel­ing of alien­ation and dis­il­lu­sion real­ly rang true to me, the sense that "a mil­lion feet" have trod a much worse path gave me com­fort, I guess. (Guthrie also hat­ed Wall Street bas­tards more than any­one, which gave me a great deal of com­fort). So the next track is all about turn­ing the cor­ner, find­ing hap­pi­ness, and being bound for glo­ry. It's from an incred­i­ble col­lec­tion of music called Art of Field Record­ing, Vol. 1, a col­lec­tion of record­ings made in rur­al homes and church­es over the past 50 years. 

Lawrence McKiver and the McIntosh County Shouters, "Jubilee" [Download]

[audio:mckiver_jubilee.mp3] For me, this track is an excel­lent reminder that a few peo­ple with a lot of spir­it and some knee-slap­ping can make some­thing deeply affect­ing. It doesn't take much. And that's the first step, per­haps, to being bound for glory.