These are tough times for America. Wall Street and board room crooks, unnecessary wars, mounting national and personal debt, massive unemployment, terrorists threats.. These are not the toughest times we’ve faced in our history,I think the fisr depression and the civil war were much tougher, but they are hard relative to the lives most people have lived today.
The silver lining is that from hard times comes great music, and country music taps into the populist zeitgeist better than any other genre beside blues. Much has been made about John Rich’s Shuttin’ Detroit Down and Hank William Jr’s Red White and Pink Slip Blues but it’s hard for me to buy populist empathy from a guy that parades around in mink coats and a guy that puts hotel employees in a choke hold and demands a kiss.
Here is a list of songs that I believe exhibit the best of what it sounds like to live through the worst.
Ryan Bingham – Hard Times – A new artist with an old voice . The name says it all.
The Drive By Truckers – Puttin’ People on the Moon – A stiff shot of old-school Southern rock chased withed populist rage.
Jimmie Rodgers – Muleskinner Blues – A classic of down-on-your-luck and lookin’ for work poetry.
Johnny Cash – Busted – Harlan Howard’s 1962 penned song of working man’s woe was aa hit for Johnny Cash in 1962 on his classic At Folsom Prison live album and was an even bigger hit for Ray Charles the following year.
Merle Haggard – Workin’ Man Blues – Classic Bakersfield rocks this ode to the laborer.
Frankie Miller – Blackland Farmer – A paen to the 1958 farmers that were just starting to get a glipmpse of the industrial farms that were to change thier professions and lives forever.
Levon Helm – Poor Old Dirt Farmer – Helm, the only American in the Americana/rock group The Band, tells the story of his Dad’s farm inTurkey Scratch, a hamlet west of Helena, Arkansas.
Johnny Paycheck – Take This Job and Shove It – it’s not all hand-wringing and woe is me in country music. Paycheck’s cover of David Allan Coe’s song was a huge 70’s hit and a raised finger to The Man.