As the album title implies, this is a work about dust, hard work, and being taken for a ride by the Man. In this 21st century version of outrage, the symbol of the Man has been replaced by the Corporation, that vast descriptor for the power behind all things going wrong in the world, especially in North America.
Joined by the band Promise of the Real with Lukas Nelson (vocals/guitar) and Micah Nelson (guitar, vocals), sons of Willie, plus Anthony Logerfo (drums), Corey McCormick (bass), and Tato Melgar (percussion), Young embeds the feel of dust and sweat in the music; raw guitar chords and raspy vocals with just enough twang to sit on the fence between folk rock and country. The songs are dirty and gritty and you have the sense that dust was everywhere in the studio when the band was recording.
Young’s plaintive timbre is dry, reflective of the lyrics and the fact that he is still angry after all these years. And that is good. There isn’t enough thoughtful protest in music anymore, or if there is, it isn’t being played on the corporate radio stations.
Young, having cut his teeth in the era of sit-ins still waves the flag of indignation. Though it’s more difficult to be noticed now it helps when one defines a common villain: Monsanto, Walmart, Starbucks, and Chevron give name to the villain with the underlying narrative is that corporations are bad and rob us of our dignity. Note bad, not evil for Young sings in “Big Box” that corporations have souls just like us only they’re “just harder to control.”
To give Young credit, he acknowledges that listeners are complicate in the issue in “People Want To Hear About Love.” He focuses on the apathy of those who don’t want to hear songs about reality and the tribulations of the world, who desire their music to be sugary sweet and empty of meaning, to which I am in full agreement.
Also, it is curious to hear how Young uses the word Monsanto through many of the songs as choruses, refrains, and near chants. This repetition tends to wear a little thin after a few listens, but it certainly drives home his point.
Unfortunately, Promise of the Real are simply supporters in this venture where more diversity of sound would have been welcome. This isn’t a great album, but it’s a necessary one with melodies that are catchy enough to elevate the material above curmudgeonly rants from an aging rocker. Give it a listen when you think that the world is falling apart. It won’t cheer you up, but it can provide a soundtrack to your angst and help you realize that you are not alone.
Consider: A New Day For Love, People Want To Hear About Love, A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop, and Workin’ Man
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