I woke up in an odd mood and while I was grinding coffee this morning, for some unknown reason, I started thinking about the legendary folk musician
Woody Guthrie and that sign he often painted on his
“This Machine Kills Fascists”
And no, I don’t mean my Italian espresso maker …
In this frame of mind, I don’t even dare open the paper … not today.
Woody once wrote, "I took a bath this morning in six war speeches, and a sprinkle of peace.”
Yeah, I know that mood.
I’m thinking, what could throw me even deeper into this funk? Maybe the right song and I can revel in this shithole state of mind for a while; I do have the morning to myself!
So I went digging though a few boxes of 45’s for this minor keyed, slow funky version of “This Land Is Your Land” by Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings originally released in 2006 as a 7-inch single with a red, white, and blue label (and a flip side of What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes?). It’s a masterpiece, if not the modern definitive version of Woody Guthrie’s classic paean to the America he saw in his travels in the 1930’s. Guthrie originally wrote this song in 1940 in response to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," which Guthrie considered unrealistic, self-satisfied and smug.
Sharon Jones’ version of This Land should be the one sung in grammar schools, especially since she includes the seldom sung verses about private property and government relief. She’s brought back the anger, the defiance and rebelliousness that had been lost; trashing the soft-pedaled, whitewashed, yankee-doodle dandy edition we’ve heard for decades.
Anyway, This Land starts with a long low dark note, slowly building around the horn section into a dirge sounding not unlike a New Orleans funeral procession, but then, just like that, kicks into a slow struttin’ funk groove. Sharon Jones sings as if she’s trying to remind us of something, something we were promised a long time ago but something we’ve completely forgotten. There’s a sort of a disbelief in her voice when she has to insist and point out to us once more that “this land was meant for you and me.” She’s not trying to wake us up; she’s reminding us not to fall asleep again.
Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings, the house band for Brooklyn heavy-funk label Daptone, have a new CD, coming out October 2nd, One Hundred Days, One Hundred Nights. Pick it up and check out the other two CDs: Naturally from 2005 and from 2002, Dap Dippin’. I keep on reading how it's old school and revivalist. It's not. It is how funk and R&B should be, should have been, before it parted ways with something essential called … soul.