Music

Hackensaw Boys Revitalize "Oval Room" for the Trump Era (premiere)

Photo: Jason Lappa

The Hackensaw Boys reboot Blaze Foley's Reagan-era "Oval Room" in light of the current political climate with scorching results.

When Blaze Foley first released "Oval Room" in the 1980s, he was voicing his unease with the policies of the Reagan administration. It quickly became a classic protest song to all those slighted by political decisions. It set the theme for revolutionaries during the Reagan era as well as through both Bush presidencies, and now a band of roots mainstays is rebooting the song in light of the disastrous Trump administration.

Whether in Foley's hands or in the Hackensaw Boys' collective grip, the song still has all of the scorching ardor, restlessness, and wit that it did when it was first released. The boys incorporate plenty of blues sentiment into their track, as well, giving it a swing and a swagger befitting of this string band's politically-charged new release. It's a wonder that this song is still as relevant as it is today as when Foley first recorded it, and in this case, that wonder isn't such a blessing. What the Hackensaw Boys are doing here are taking on the torch from Foley and respecting his work by embodying every bit of the passion that he had for justice in their performance.

The Hackensaw Boys tell PopMatters that "Ferd showed us 'Oval Room' while we were on tour in Europe and the lyrics were spot on with how some of us were feeling about the negative political climate in our country, and, for that matter, around the world. We immediately knew we wanted to record our interpretation of this timeless song. It's worth noting that Blaze Foley had Ronald Reagan in mind when he wrote this song in the early '80s, yet we feel the words fit just as well with Trump and other dangerous heads of state around the globe. It's ironic that Blaze's melody feels fun and light-hearted. One can't help but sing along happily to his words—words which, in truth, are so dark and shamefully still relevant today.

"The photograph used on the cover was taken by Jason Lappa - an amazing photographer from our hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. Jason captured this image on Trump's inauguration day in DC. Dangerous leadership can create an extremely polarized divide amongst citizens - a divide designed to tear people apart and thus give more power to the state. When a country's leadership doesn't take care of the needs of the majority of its people, undermines our health and well-being, and fills the public forum with hate, violence can erupt. We're on the brink in America, and this image really gets to the heart of that."


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