With Turkey Day upon us, it's VITAL to our standing here at List Of The Day to discuss the tenmusical acts that when offered the chance to sing about women and love andmoney decide to sing about America instead. It often makes for duller music.When you're comparing per capita incomes and the influence of farm-basedsubsidies on an economy, you're likely to lose a few listeners in the process.It may be the only reason Larry Kudlow has yet to embark on a music career. Hedoesn't have the songs!Lucinda Williams: Listening to a Lucinda Williamsalbum is often like rifling through a Rand-McNally atlas with all hergeographical mentions. Natchitoches?That's in East Texas, not far from the border!Lake Charles? Louisiana, honey! Rosedale? Mississippi!I can't wait till she travels north and starts naming towns in New Jersey! Singac? Berkeley Heights? Westfield? You're on stand-by.
9) David Ackles: If this blog serves a purpose it'sto make the general reading public more aware of David Ackles. AmericanGothic and The Road To Cairo were silly albums in their own way,conceptually ambitious where no concept need apply. But if you've even wonderedwhere Eddie Vedder got that voice. Try Doug Ingle of Iron Butterfly and thenstop by and visit with David Ackles. Jeremy really did speak in class TODAY!Steve Earle: In his earliest days, Steve Earle wasa ramblin' cowhand playing tough country for an audience who were waiting forhim to settle down. Except something happened to him on the road to drugrecovery. He found politics and he decided to sing about his concerns. While itisn't like he's setting The Nation to music, he's not letting us offwithout a few pie charts explaining economic disparity and the need to shine onyour brother. And his son, Justin Townes Earle, is making the rounds. This isgoing to be a family business.
7) The Long Ryders: These poor guys got such a bumdeal the first time around that I'm willing to help them out anyway I can. Imean, it was the mid-1980s and these guys were posing on album covers lookinglike they were on the set of Bonanza and they sang songs like "LookingFor Lewis And Clark," "WDIA" and "You Just Can't Ride The Boxcars Anymore." Idon't remember there being much of a disgruntled boxcar riding constituency outthere, but then there are a lot of nuts out there that I'm not aware of.Gillian Welch: Yes, ol' Gillian "sensible shoe"Welch sings about all kind of miners and toothless family members sleeping onthe back porches of America.I always wonder what happens to these people when they see that theirmanagement has cellphones? Do they feel betrayed?
5) Toby Keith: I'm not real excited by modern countrymusic. While lots of it is patriotic as hell and flag waving is rote, the musicitself often sounds like bad hard rock with a fiddle. But Toby Keith has provento be a bit more amusing than the average cowboy. That "Beer For My Horses"song nearly gives me a stroke but there's something funny about his "averageguy" routine that tells me he ain't average but I wouldn't argue with him aboutthe "guy" part.John Mellencamp: Whether he was singing about"Jack And Diane," "Pink Houses," "Rain On The Scarecrow," this guydecided to turn his career into one long public service announcement. And hedid so without turning his music into music that sounds like the governmentmade it. And he apparently voted enough in Indiana to turn it into a blue state. Thattakes a lot of voting.
3) Bruce Springsteen: Everyone knew Bruce would be onthis list. C'mon, he put the flag on the cover of his 1984 album and that wasduring a Presidential Election year. And he recorded The Rising whichfeatured a bunch of songs about 9-11 and its effect on the American psyche. Andnow I've read that he's planning an album to be released around the time of the2009 Presidential Inauguration! I'm sure he's got plenty of words that rhymewith Obama up his sleeve.Billy Bragg And Wilco: You don't have to beAmerican to be American. We're a melting pot of cultures and some of our best,most active citizens are people who either don't live here or weren't bornhere. Billy Bragg may speak and sing in a heavy British accent, but he lovesWoody Guthrie and the idea of this country's democracy as much as he loves hisown country. And this is a guy who wouldn't mind being called socialist. Farmore listenable than Pete Seeger (oh, if I had a hammer!), Bragg teamedup with the estate of Woody Guthrie and the great mid-western group Wilco tomake two albums that are--dare I say it?--more American than Apple Pie.
1) The Band: In the late 1960s, these guys must'velooked pretty weird. I mean, "back to the land"? What drugs are they are? And that name. TheBand? Why not just call the album: The Album. And the songs: The Songs. Ormaybe "Song 1," "Song 2." Instead they had stuff like "The Night They Drove OldDixie Down" and "Across The Great Divide." And only one of the guys wasAmerican. The rest were Canadian! Where's "Bound For Winnipeg"? "On Nova Scotia Time"? "SaskatschewanWoman"? I guess the grass always looks greener. Except in this case, Americangrass is greener. It's not all covered with snow!
- David Ackles