Tag Archives: American Recordings

Songs of Defiance

Defiance is a personal characteristic that often gets a bad wrap, but let’s face it, there are times when we need to stand strong in the face of popular opinion and hold our ground. Lately, I’ve been feeling a little defiant, wanting to bare my teeth at the world and some of its inhabitants; wanting to lower my horns and meet the day head on. So here’s a clutch of songs from three men who aren’t afraid to make a stand… each song, shiver-inducing in its own way. Hope they help you carry the fire.

Room at the Top – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Tom Petty is one of those rare artists, unflinchingly honest in his approach and able to tell it bullet-straight, while still sounding sweeter than sugarcane. When Petty sings, I’ve got a room at the top of the world tonight and I ain’t coming down, he does so with a quiet ferocity. Petty, the perpetual outsider, stakes his claim and is prepared to go down swinging in its defence.  This is the sound of a band, who never once believed rock was dead…

Hurt – Johnny Cash

While the NIN original is brilliant in its own right, Cash owns this song, his dying body and thinning voice giving these lyircs an otherworldly poignance. Cash stands at the threshold of life and delivers the closing lyric, If I could start again/ a million miles away/ I would keep myself/ I would find a way, with such certainty… there is no resignation here, just a man and the knowledge that everyone goes away in the end. And this is quite possibly one of the greatest clips ever produced.

Atlantic City – Bruce Springsteen

Everything here is stripped back to the core… the line between an honest man and a criminal blur, as does the line between life and death. Springsteen’s voice is at its harrowing best, but at the same time defiant, triumphant in its declaration, Everything dies baby that’s a fact/ but maybe everything that dies someday comes back/ Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty/ and meet me tonight in Atlantic City. This is the truth told simply… and death, theft, loneliness are part of that truth.

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Ain’t No Grave – The New Folk pt. VIII

 Well, it’s a grey kinda day… perfect for those voices that perforate darkness. And these three voices do just that. Cash, Scott-Heron and Manuck have that unflinching honesty that unsettles the masses. Voices that tell their truths with the necessary sparseness to ensure they hit the very centre of their targets. This handful of songs presents you with some stark realities, but then again, reality is never really sugar coated. Embrace the clouds and open yourself….

Ain’t No Grave – Johnny Cash

The sixth (and final) installment of the American Recordings series is about to be released and if Ain’t No Grave is any indication, it may be the crowning glory. Cash’s baritone may have lost some of its brute force in his final years, but if anything, the edge is sharper and cuts deeper. And the lyric is so true… There ain’t no grave gonna hold this body down. In life and death, Cash is a giant. A musician who embraced his fragility and channelled it into a lifetime of song.

Me and the Devil: Gil Scott-Heron

On this, his first new track in some 16 years, Scott-Heron is sounding as vital as he ever did, like he made a pact at the crossroads of blues and hip-hop and is breathing fire into this stark take on the Robert Johnson classic. His blues holler soaring over the top of the restless samples and minimalist electronica. Let’s hope I’m New Here, brings this streetwise, well lived voice to a whole new generation.

Kollaps Tradicional (Bury 3 Dynamos): Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band

It’s always a pleasure to have folk-punk monsters A Silver Mt Zion creating their unique orchestral squall. Kollaps Tradicional (Bury 3 Dynamos) builds to a piano-string-tight crescendo, that will tear the breath from your chest. Guitars, violin and upright bass chime together while Efrim’s French-filtered voice is an agitated wail. Kollaps is the thunderous, free falling sound of a band at its peak.

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