Having not made his recording debut until 2017, some thirty-odd years after he starting performing, Spehar's wasted no time with a follow-up. Of course, he had an incentive. Very much a protest album, this directly has Donald Trump in its cross-sights on four tracks. Lively fiddle-driven bluegrass opener 'Thank You Donald' is a wryly amusing number about how, having been sent suicidal by the election, he had a WTF moment and realised that fighting back was better than giving up. As you might surmise, the rhythmically jerking, hornsy soul-limned 'Freedom To Grab' concerns the President's much reported hands-on misogyny while, based on Woody Guthrie's encounter with Trump Sr, 'Bitch Heaven' (the title a play on Trump's Beach Haven development) is a folk blues strum about the two them seeking entrance through the pearly gates. Morhping into 'This Land Is My Land', no prizes for guessing which one's on the guest list.
Taking a wider viewpoint on Trump's America, 'What Would Jesus Do?' is a fingerpicked talking blues satirical swipe at bigotry, bankers, the NRA asking whether Jesus would build a wall or vote for Trump, just as the bluesy title track points the finger at those "playing games with our lives.". More obliquely, given cabaret flourishes, the shuffling 'Carnival' draws a subtle parallel between the latest White House incumbent and Lyndon Johnson.
He's not the only target. The jazzy rhythm and brassy 'Greed' pretty much speaks for itself, 'Son of an Immigrant' reminds that most people fall into that category one way or another while, a stark, parched acoustic borderscaped 'Barrier Reef' comes at the same subject from the other side of the border. Turning to war, the military beat waltzer 'Pearl Harbor' directs his attention to their constant proliferation, while the lap steel colours of the wearied 'Except for the Bomb' muses on their legacies and the acoustic slow waltz lament 'A Soldier's Spiritual' deals with the disgraceful way the country treats its veterans.
Variously reminiscent of Prine, Clark, Kristofferson and Earle, following on in the wake of albums by the likes of The Tillers, Keegan McInroe, Nathan Bell, The Young 'Uns, Beau and Steve Pledger, this is further potent evidence that protest folk is alive and very well indeed.
|Laura Benitez & The Heartache: With All It's Thorns||River Whyless: Kindness, A Rebel|
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