'Round The Dial
By: Tom Hallett
Barry Thomas Goldberg
stalwart Barry Thomas Goldberg has made a name for himself among
the current generation as an outspoken, fearless political commentator
and a musician who can adapt to a bevy of different styles,
but he has, in fact, been playing and writing his original brand
of protest songs for over 4 decades. You can check out his early
work (An absolute must-have for collectors of sixties-era Twin
Cities bands, much of which is psychadelic-inspired garage rock
that's reminiscent of artists ranging from The early Who to
Buffalo Springfield to Frank Zappa And The Mothers and CCR)
by visiting www.ironweeds.com or CD Baby and picking up the
album The Batch: Transistor- The Lost Basement Recordings, 1968-1971.
The Creek was originally intended to capture live the raw essence
of some of his most memorable past compositions, but during
rehearsals, Goldberg found that he could not refrain from penning
new material and making some of the boldest statements of his
career. That, it turns out, is a very good thing, considering
that although we've finally voted into office some apparently
honest and empathetic politicians, we'll be dealing with the
last administration's fall-out for decades to come.
Barry's illustrious catalog gives new credence to the old adage,
"The more things change, the more they stay the same."
His first songs came to fruition during the height of the Vietnam
War, and today's social, political, and economic climate is
a stark reflection of those tumultuous times. Goldberg was right
to avoid making some grand, final statement just as the world
needs his brand of raw, gutsy folk rock the most. This album
is an amazing amalgam of musical approaches with a common thread-
the world around us- even though the subject matter may not
be exactly what the average club-going party animal might want
Goldberg's voice is a curious melding of Warren Zevon's smart-aleck
howl, Elvis Costello's inscrutable, dry vocal tease, and Springsteen's
devil-may-care holler. Not exactly what you'd think of when
picturing a modern folk-rocker, but that's where the "alternative"
derivation comes in. This isn't the stuffy, collegiate folk
so common in coffee houses and on open stages, but a decidedly
ballsier, more brash musical statement barely held in check
by a time-wise pen. Simply put, it's music for the people made
by a person, nothing more, nothing less.
Whether he's yelping indignantly about the state of the economy
("Hard Times,") musing on the effects of the real
estate melt-down ("The Creek,") or growling along
with gritty rhythm and sobbing slide guitars ("My Honeybee,")
Goldberg undeniably makes each cut his own personal rock n'
roll stump from which to impart his hard-won personal philosophies.
His staunch backing band (Gary Paulak on guitar, slide, bass
and backing vox, Marc Partridge on lead guitar, Jim Steinworth
on organ and accordian, Gregg Kubera and Larry Hofmann on bass,
and Scott Homan and Steve Thielges on drums) is obviously at
home in the studio and onstage with him, and judging from the
sound thrashing they give their instruments here, are in complete
agreement with his earthy, pro-Democracy stance.
"Afghanistan" is ablaze with righteous anger, guitars
sizzling and snare positively cracking along with a timely tale
of one of the several wars the U.S. is currently involved in,
and rings out a hard truth with lines like, "I wonder where
I am/I must be in Afghanistan/Get me home, get me home right
now/I got a wife and a child I love/I was answering freedom's
call/Get me home, get me home right now..." "Propaganda"
tumbles out on a funky drum beat and gleefully off-kilter keyboards,
coming off like an alternate-galaxy blending of The Minutemen
and The Monks.
The whole package wraps up with the outraged rant "Big
Oil," (which was picked by the prestigious Brit rock mag
NME as a "Best New YouTube Video" the week of its
release) a self-explanatory slice of contemporary commentary
that covers not only its stated topic but also homes in on many
of the rotting super-structures that are supported by it.
Bottom line, Barry Thomas Goldberg is to today's fearless, all-American
folk-rock movement what past heroes such as Pete Seeger and
Woody Guthrie were to theirs- he's just a hell of a lot louder
and more world-weary than they were. A fierce, undeniable call
to attention for a new generation from a guy who's been there
and back and isn't ready to hang up his guitar until either
he or fascism have taken leave of this planet. Available now
on CD Baby.
That about wraps up this installment of the 'Dial...we'll be
back soon with more local reviews and a peek at some new national
releases, including the latest from The Alternate Routes and
American Laundromat Records' Tribute To The Cure. Keep the knob
locked in right here, and until we meet again- make yer own