For a city boy from Philadelphia, or perhaps because he once was just that, Chuck Brodsky catches on. In a fast-changing world, we define our society not so much by where we are today but where we just have been. This is a difficult task as recent history is quickly replaced with a newer distraction. People are already “done” with that, and anxious to move on to something else. Though his songs seem to speak of a different time and different place, all that still exists in the here and now. He slows things down a bit to show this to us now before it goes away, and he even manages to take a few swings at our culture.
“Take It Out Back” has a bit more to say than “reduce, reuse, recycle.” The song is a commentary on the unending social requirements of consumerism, as recycling efforts increase in direct proportion to purchasing power. If you happen to be a simple sort living in the country, the temptation is strong just to chuck all that.
Might be political season, but politics are always fair game for the songwriter. “He Came to Our Town” is a perfect song for an election year. Instead of eating pizza and eating chit’lins as he did in Bob Dylan’s original song, the candidate now goes to the source and quotes Bob Dylan. Yes, the times they have been a-changin’. Also casting a bit of light into the darker corners of political life is “The Boys in the Back Room.” The theme is nearly timeless; the song has all the elements of arrogant boss-ism and corrupt local politicians. I’m glad to say those so-and-so’s don’t go unpunished for long, at least not in this song. This time, they get what we all find ourselves wishing for them. “Some got sent to prison, It was a one-paragraph story.” Chuck sings this matter of factly because such things are a matter of fact.
Chuck Brodsky is a good songwriter and singer. But to be successful in the music business, you have to learn to entertain, and that means learning how to really work a room. “Schmoozing” deals with the business side of the music industry, the party. Music industry parties are places where if timbales are mentioned they’re only talking about the food, but where curry is more than a favorite flavor, that’s why you’re at the party. The casual bumping of heads over the guacamole bowl can signify much in terms of future career possibilities. The preferred foods at industry parties change as quickly as the music styles, awhile back it was wraps but it’s been tapas for some time now. Often, the invitation and the booze is all they have to offer.
If you can’t make a hit there, you hit the road, Jack. You are not just in the minors, you are relegated to one of them little league labels, as locally idiosyncratic and strange sounding as the offbeat brands on cans you find on the shelves in a rural store. Chuck Brodsky sings about all those things. Mostly he understands that home is where the heart is. In writing about the small joys that make life worth living and the big disappointments, he has his finger on the pulse of what makes life genuine. He is in the finest tradition of American folksingers from Woody Guthrie to Rambling Jack Elliot, and a number of others I have probably never heard.
// Notes from the Road
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