Music Notes August 2017

Rebel music from Canadian Reds

Canadian communists are producing some vital music these days, with comrades in Nova Scotia and B.C. notifying People’s Voice of recording projects. Ryan Barry (aka Red Opera), a member of the CPC’s Halifax Club, who stood as a candidate in last year’s federal election, has just released “Lifestyles of the Bourgeoisie”. It’s a five-song EP of revolutionary hip-hop with lyrics composed and performed by Barry, over beats created by his cousin Thagodzombie. The two will be releasing an album, “The Velvet Glove and the Iron Fist”, in the fall. Meanwhile, the EP is available on Bandcamp for $7. Comrade Ryan will match the proceeds with a donation to the CPC. Meanwhile, Kamloops rocker and CPC member Peter Kerek, a candidate in the recent B.C. provincial election, has released a single with his band Better Red Than Dead. “Shills n Dupes” explores “the greasy relationship between endless consumerism, corporate deception, political corruption and the violation of indigenous rights and lands”. It was inspired by the struggle against the Ajax Mine development in Kamloops. Dan Hansen and Eli Jordan are the other members of this hard-rockin’ outfit. Better Red Than Dead is set to make a full-length release later this year. “Shills n Dupes” is available for 99 cents at iTunes.


Stirring messages from DeMent & Gilkyson

Singers Iris DeMent and Eliza Gilkyson, both outstanding contemporary folk artists, have released new works with powerful political messages. Iris DeMent is a folk, country, and gospel artist who resides in rural Iowa. She possesses one of the most unforgettable voices in American music. In her 25-year career she’s released just six albums, but they’re all worth hearing. DeMent’s latest release, “We Won’t Keep Quiet”, is a timely protest song. It was published on March 2 as a video on YouTube, and dedicated to the members of the Iowa City community who sang with her in the video, as well as to all who participated in the historic January 21 Women’s March on Washington. “We Won’t Keep Quiet” is a singalong anthem that needs to be heard. Eliza Gilkyson’s “The Great Correction” is a poignant video newly created to accompany the song of the same name previously released on her 2008 album Beautiful World. It’s clear from the images and quotations in this thoughtful video that the “Great Correction” she’s talking about is not simply the revenge of nature against a rapacious capitalist system, but a people’s revolution. Gilkyson resides in Austin, Texas, where she’s a well-known social justice activist.


Greece pays tribute to Theodorakis

The irony of being feted as “the musical conscience of Greece” by a parliament, most of whose members have acquiesced to the austerity demands of foreign capital, must not have been lost on composer Mikis Theodorakis, as he took in the gigantic tribute to his life and work on June 19 in Athens. 50,000 people attended the concert at Panathinaic Stadium, which featured 1,000 choral singers from 30 cities, a full orchestra, and dozens of other performers. Theodorakis, 91, is universally recognized as the country’s greatest living artist, so Greece’s rulers were compelled to join in the tribute, despite the artist’s criticisms of their capitulation to E.U. austerity and U.S. imperialism. Theodorakis has written more than 1,000 songs, and many acclaimed orchestral works, but he’s best known in North America as a composer of film scores like Zorba the Greek (1964), and Serpico (1973). During World War II, Theodorakis fought in the anti-fascist resistance. During the military dictatorship of 1967-74, his music was banned and he was forced to live in exile. At the June 19 tribute, Theodorakis conducted two of his popular songs, after which he rose from his wheelchair and tearfully accepted a prolonged ovation.


Rosie Sorrels: 1933-2017

American singer-songwriter and storyteller Rosalie Sorrels died on June 11 in Reno, Nevada. Sorrels was born and raised in Boise, Idaho. Her first album (for Folkways in 1959) was a collection of folk songs from her home state. In the mid-sixties, Rosalie split up with her husband, and became an itinerant folksinger. She played at clubs, coffee houses, and all the big North American folk festivals, often with radical troubadour Utah Phillips, a long-time friend and collaborator. Rosalie left behind 36 albums, a personal memoir, a collection of songs and stories from Idaho, and an anthology of poems and songs about women’s experiences. In her later years, Rosalie recorded for the Red House label, which released her tribute to Utah Phillips, “Strangers in Another Country” in 2008. It includes an excellent rendition of Louise Scruggs’s ballad “Starlight on the Rails”. Look for it on YouTube. A good mid-career album to check out is “Always a Lady” (1976), the liner notes of which include a droll dedication to her mother, who taught Rosalie “that a lady is someone who never does anything unintentionally vulgar”.

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