Monday, July 9, 2007

Penguin Eggs review...

Penguin Eggs is a Canadian magazine, featuring articles, interviews and reviews dealing with every sort of "folk" music you can imagine. In fact the top banner lists it as "Canada's folk, roots and world music magazine." That about captures it. The summer 2007 issue is out, and has Mavis Staples on the cover. Also listed are Joe Boyd, Martin Carthy, Watermelon Slim, Carolina Chocolate Drops, and David Essig...and the opportunity to "win Maria Muldaur CDs and John Prine t-shirts." I already entered the contest, although I've never won anything from them yet!
The Mavis interview is newsy. Some new pictures. Then there's the following review of My Name is Buddy by Roddy Campbell:
Consider this the audio equivalent of George Orwell's Animal Farm. Ostensibly packaged as a children's tale, complete with hardcover binding, it tells of the Great Depression-era adventures of Buddy Red Cat, Lefty Mouse and the Reverend Tom Toad. But pay attention to the graphic for the first track--a pencil drawing of Karl Marx's Das Kapital. Beside it rests a button that reads "Free Mooney". While it's not specified, Tom Mooney was a socialist and a labour and anti-war activist wrongly jailed for murder in 1916. He spent 23 years in prison before being pardoned in 1939.
The lyrics are just as subtle and poignant. Cooder has, essentially, wrapped My Name is Buddy in tales of 'labour, big bosses, farm failures, strikes, company cops...the America of yesteryear' in defiant, if sometimes blunt, allegory.
As a wiser man than me once said, 'the past didn't go anywhere.' And many of these issues--homelessness, failing family farms and rascism--are still relevant today. The bold title track even propagates environmental challenges.
Oddly enough, though, this record has gone right over the heads of many critics, who found it frivolous due to the main characters being animals. But, you'll recall, Cooder was prosecuted and fines $25,000 by the Bush administration for recording the Buena Vista Social Club in Cuba. Progressive political commentary in today's radically conservative America simply attracts frenzied commentary from the powerful, reactionary, right-wing media. Just ask the Dixie Chicks or Michael Moore.
Backed by the likes of Pete and Mike Seeger, Bobby King and Terry Evans, Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains and Flaco Jimenez, Cooder delves into the real roots of Americana as he revisits the acoustic musical legacy left by the likes of Woody Guthrie, the Carter Family, Hank Williams, the Staple Singers, Bukka White, Billie Holiday, Snooks Eaglin...indeed, Eaglin's "One Scoth, One Bourbon, One Beer" provides the dark inspiration for the electoral fraud perpetrated on "One Cat, One Vote, One Beer." "Three Chords and the Truth" sings the praises of labour and civil rights activists Joe Hill, Paul Robeson and Pete Seeger. "They took Pete Seeger before the law and put him on the witness stand / but he stood right up to tyranny with just a banjo in his hand." Stirring stuff. All told My Name is Buddy is a beam of bright light in these darkest of political days.

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