The ultimate purpose and effectiveness of a dissent song is to reach both mind and soul. High profile artists, Eminem, Springsteen and Neil Young, have recently added their efforts to the list of protest songs.
Enter the unknown backyard band: The Elmer Creek Conspiracy, with “America in Denial”; 10 songs that have the potential to reach more minds and hearts than many others I have heard. This group illustrates a fundamental truth of humanity: backyard amatuers can produce an artistic work that rivals the professionals.
Musical preference is very individual. Mine in 50 year chronological order: classical, folk, rock, bluegrass, zydeco, jazz and Native American. I’m trying to learn the steel pan, my favorite instrument, partly because I can play and sing. Singing, IMO is an essential part of daily living. Good for the lungs and releases endorphins – the body’s natural, feel good drugs. They are essential to human relations. The strongest bonds among humans are created when they share an endorphin high.
Now to the subtle power of “America in Denial”. The music is a delightful combination of rock, jazz, and country. The lyrics have the concise clarity of poetry without sacrificing the full reality that needs to be said. The balance is striking. The music backs up and carries the words, which the artists deliver so clearly it is hard to miss or mistake any of them. The result is images and ideas that resonate in your brain to the tunes that add the intangible piece to the message. The skill of reaching mind and spirit is rich in the Elmer Creek Conspiracy.
Tom Sherwood’s songs are the most musical and concise of all . “White Boy Blues” goes straight to the right brain with minimal lyrics. It falls in with a group I am very fond of, “Classical Gas” and “Lovers and Friends”. The uplifting music channeling the feelings to a place we can heal the pain. An essential prerequisite for people to be able to face painful truth.
“Promised Land” focuses on the human side of the immigration issue. Clear, simple and still cutting to the core.
Les Halvarson has a knack for using words and delivery for the best mental impact. He has a keen understanding of the human psyche. The verses of title song “America in Denial” are the voice of reason, of the many Americans trying to wake up our fellow citizens – who reply with denial in every refrain. The song speaks to both sides: the frustration and importance of those of us speaking out and the obstinance of so many to accept the truth.
“Bring Back the Draft” hits complacent Americans with a message that pulls no punches. ‘You would stand up to this if your child was forced to go’. And my own absolute (Thank you, Les):
“But instead understand that you are to blame
For all the things being done in your name”
(Note: ‘Jodie’, as used in the CD, is an old military name for the guy at home who has gotten to know your girl ).
“Paradox” is a gospel music ballad, twisting at the last verse into the “Do unto others” proverb.
“What Am I Doing Here?” was written about Vietnam after Les came home. The similarities to the Iraq vets are chillingly appropriate as the CD finale.
Melissa Fuller’s beautiful voice and songs full of pain can hook listeners rather than turn them off.
“Whatcha Gonna Do” expresses my horror of what we have done to our volunteer military. The obvious wounds, the hidden wounds and the lesson we did not learn.
“Pieces of them left behind or broke beyond repair
Precious baby’s sparkling eyes now hold a vacant stare
Who will tend these crippled ones, who’ll clean up this mess?
They’ll prob’ly end up on the streets just like Vietnam vets”
“Fallujah Lullaby” is equal in length and importance to the title song. Fuller slowly blisters the mind and soul with this Iraqi view of what Fallujah residents experienced during the bombing. The music has all the beauty of any lullaby, creating the ultimate contrast with the word images. Fascinating to me, the only word on the entire CD I misunderstood, I found rereading the lyrics: it works both ways. Innocence or Innocents in the refrain. (I like hers better)
“Bad Man Blues” is the lament of all who have spoken up, and an answer to some critics.
“It don’t feel good, oh no it don’t feel good
Believe me when I tell you, it doesn’t make me happy to be right”
“Evening News” The group collaboration inspired by Vietnam Vet Tom Sherwood, highlights their combined talents. Using an instrumental only refrain, the song verses take you from the innocent kid who signed up, to the disillusioned Iraq vet he becomes. Like “What Am I Doing Here”, it brings into focus the impact on a soldier when the war he is risking his life for, turns out to be a mistake.
“How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” John Kerry 4/22/71
This work is one I think can be an important addition to bringing others to action and the ultimate success of taking back our country. Music doesn’t move people like that unless it’s darn good. America in Denial is even better.
Editors note: “America in Denial” is available here.