Revisiting Protest Songs of Yore, Americana Musicians Build Upon, and Add to, Canon

by Sachyn Mital

29 June 2017

Anthony D'Amato and River Whyless tackle classic protest songs while recently reunited The Mammals address cultural divisions with a new tune.
Anthony D'Amato. Photo credits: Sachyn Mital 

Brooklyn-based roots musician Anthony D’Amato and his band recently performed an acoustic set at the Rubin Museum to celebrate the release of his latest EP, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, a set of seven original and cover songs (proceeds from sales will support the International Rescue Committee). It was inspired, of course, by the current President.
  
The first track on the EP is D’Amato’s take on Woody Guthrie’s classic “This Land is Your Land”, placing original lyrics from the 1940s song against audio clips from Trump, Dubya and others. “This Land” features guest vocals from Josh Ritter, while other contributors to the EP include Lizzie No, Sean Watkins and more. The audio for this song and photos of D’Amato’s show at the Rubin can be found below.

River Whyless, a four-piece folk band that hails from Asheville, North Carolina, revisited Creedence Clearwater Revival’s powerful “Fortunate Son” in the context of this administration. Their video utilizes footage from the Women’s March (both in D.C. and in Asheville) to “help speak truth to power, not for the sake of perpetuating our country’s present divisiveness, but as a way to support and encourage the need for an open, honest, and compassionate conversation about our universal rights and freedoms”. Listen to their take below.

Meanwhile, Woodstock, NY area duo Mike & Ruthy reunited their band The Mammals for the new year to tour and put out some new material including a couple of political songs. The Mammals played a set at Rockwood in April where they performed their new song “Culture War”, which finds Mike Merenda singing about being divided, like America, by politics. (The song calls back to “This Land…”).

The band also released the plaintive song “My Baby Drinks Water” (available at name your own price on Bandcamp) featuring Ruthy Unger incanting a quiet lullaby originally for her children but given new meaning by the “bravery of the Standing Rock water protectors”. The lyric video for “Culture War” and photos from the band’s Rockwood show are below.

Anthony D’Amato, 16 June 2017, Rubin Museum

The Mammals, 27 April 2017, Rockwood

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