New Rovics album tells stories of struggle
All The News That’s Fit to Sing
Released July 4
So here it is, the latest album from prolific radical songwriter David Rovics All The News That's Fit to Sing.
It contains some completely new songs and some previously released some already available on Youtube, some that die-hard fans might have heard on the sneak preview Rovics gave on his Spreaker online radio show, “June in History and Song”.
The album brings these new songs together and the studio recordings include new arrangements and backing vocals that make it worth streaming or downloading for old fans and new.
Rovics plays acoustic folk music with a punk influence that has become more pronounced over the years. Several of the songs on this album set a mellow acoustic mood, but most are upbeat with the energy of percussive guitar rhythms. Many are enhanced by Rovics’ own harmonies.
For this reviewer, the music is a wonderful medium, but even more, it’s the message that contains the prime appeal. And as Rovics fans would expect, there are songs about topical issues.
“TPP 101” lifts the lid on the latest free trade agreement being negotiated by the US and other Pacific nations to strengthen the hand of the rich in “the transnational class war”.
“Mudslide” tells the story of the tragic mountainside collapse in Oso, Washington, earlier this year an avoidable tragedy predicted by scientists and the consequence of erosion from hillside logging.
“Mitch Daniels” tells of the former Indiana governor's censorship of radical historian Howard Zinn's work: “Because a patriotic history of half-truths and lies/Is all the history you need.”
And “Moazzam” provides an impassioned musical argument for the release of Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo prisoner and British national, arrested again by the British government on “terror” charges. His real “crime” was essentially for blowing the whistle on that government's cosy relationship with the Syrian government sending prisoners to be tortured by the Assad regime.
“Tax the sun” blasts the Oklahoma government for penalising solar power while subsidising fossil fuels. “Eat the rich” offers a lighthearted “theme song” for an annual Norwegian festival of the same name.
“Bubbling Up” provides a somewhat cryptic critique of Hollywood star Scarlet Johansson’s decision to support Sodastream — a company profiting from the illegal occupation of the West Bank and a target of the pro-Palestinian global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.
Then there are the contributions to keeping people’s history alive. “The Dam” lauds the dramatic direct action opening to Iceland’s environment movement. “Dead” relates the chillingly calculated murderous mentality of those responsible for the shooting of antiwar campus students of Kent State and Jackson State universities in 1970.
And “Song for Oscar Grant” tells of the 2009 extra-judicial police killing of Oakland man Oscar Grant, movingly painting a picture of the impact on Grant’s four-year-old daughter.
Elsewhere (“Love of an Unknown Soldier”) Rovics wrote “Every song I’ve ever written has been a love song.” The album contains a love song in the more recognisable form (“Judy”), as well as compassionate cameos that tell stories of homelessness (“Invisible Man”) and loneliness “Hoarder Song.”
In “Welcome to the Working Class,” Rovics pokes fun at the popular misconception that “we’re all middle class now,” leaving it for the audience to work out who benefits from this myth.
There’s even something for cricket fans (“Sachin”).
With the title track, he takes aim at those in power who would keep us in the dark to maintain the status quo, urging us, “Turn off your tv or you won’t learn a thing/Gather round I’ll give you all the news that’s fit to sing.”
In keeping with Rovics’ progressive politics, his songs cover themes of anti-capitalism, environmentalism, solidarity with Palestine, anti-racism, free speech and deep humanism.
“I don’t have all the answers,” the song acknowledges, and women’s struggle for liberation remains a set of questions and answers absent from his repertoire.
He sings some wonderful songs about women tender, poignant and sexy songs about lovers; songs paying tribute to women fighters, prisoners and martyrs like Assata Shakur, Ana Belen Montes, Chelsea Manning, Judi Bari and Rachel Corrie.
And he sings songs that relate to feminist themes that the personal is political and in support of abortion rights. However, these latter are songs addressed to men (“Sit down to piss”) and about a man (assassinated abortion doctor George Tiller, “In the name of God”), respectively.
Songs about any of the many struggles women have organised and won against their oppression as women would certainly round out his immense, diverse and inspiring body of work.
The album is available online to stream or download. It can be purchased at a price determined by the listener (useful to remember that this is how such artists pay their bills and that liking and sharing helps build an audience and support base).
Progressives, folkies, activists, history buffs here are songs to inform, anger, move and energise us. Listen to them; share them; enjoy.