Music has long been a medium for the expression of social comment. This is certainly so in country music, if less so within bluegrass. Also, most of the genre’s progenitors and many from later generations have come from a rural environment and have first hand knowledge of the struggle to make a living from the land.
The forthcoming release, on June 24, of Moneyland, (MCM 0005), from McCoury Music adds much to the catalogue of songs that speak of economic depravity. The multi-artist collection offers a hard-hitting look at the economic hardships and perceived injustices experienced by both rural and urban working people and their families.
On a personal level, Del McCoury has direct experience of life in rural America – having been born in North Carolina and spending good part of his life in York County, Pennsylvania – so it will not come as any surprise that he should lend his name to this project and express his solidarity with those who are suffering in current economic circumstances.
Among the personnel heard on this 16-track collection are the Del McCoury Band, Mac Wiseman, Merle Haggard, Patty Loveless, Dan Tyminski, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Tim O’Brien, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.
Some of the recordings were ‘bought in’ from previously available sources, others were done specifically for this set.
Book-ending Moneyland are a Franklin D Roosevelt Fireside chat, parts 1 and 2, and in the one instance a 1931 recording of Breadline Blues 1932 [from Bernard ‘Slim’ Smith] and at the end Breadline Blues 2008, a contemporary arrangement of the 1932 song with additional verses.
Moneyland is an unashamedly political message to the powers that be. I’ll not be surprised if it prompts debate; it may help to inform opinions, just like a book or other piece of literature.
The McCoury Music web site has personal messages about the project from Del McCoury, Stan Strickland of McCoury Music, and CD producers Strickland, Ronnie McCoury, and Rob McCoury. Del expresses the project’s goal explicitly in one of these messages:
“I’m in a position where I can make good choices. And aside from just doing what I do musically, I can help others do the same themselves, and get a message out that people need to hear and think about – and, especially in an election year, take action on. This isn’t about party politics, it’s about doing what’s best for our country and everyone in it, not just a lucky few.”
[Editor’s note] If you are curious which end of the political spectrum this project occupies, our friend Craig Havighurst makes it plain at String Theory Media:
“Let’s just say I wouldn’t be surprised if Moneyland is on Obama’s iPod by this summer’s Democratic convention.”
Audio samples from several tracks can be heard online. File under Americana.