There's a reason I chose Spook Handy as one of the best American folk singers you've never heard of
, and his latest album Whatcha Gonna Do?
is an excellent example. Filled with wonderfully articulate protest songs and narrative tunes about family. His social commentary spares nobody, from prison guards and politicians to military mothers who vote to keep war going despite the death of their soldier sons.
"Do More With Less"
is an excellent, memorable, fiddle-driven romp of a tune that comments on pretty much every messed-up faction of modern society in a way that only the most skilled topical lyricist can typically manage. Luckily for the song, Handy is one such lyricist. But, he doesn't stop with his eloquent, articulate lyrics. He throws in enough striking fiddle solos and even a little whistling, to tie it all together.
Another highlight is his cover of Pete Seeger's "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy," and "Heading For the Hague," both of which are made memorable and distinct by their sharp, tight harmonies. "Mom and Pop's Small Town Corner Hardware Store" is an excellent statement about mass development, while "It's Your War Now, Mrs. Bly" addresses the perpetualization of the Iraq War.
Great Topical Tunes
Watcha Gonna Do?
comes with a brief note Pete Seeger
scribbled to Handy noting how great the album is. You can't really get a better endorsement than that. It's appropriate for Handy, whose songs embody the same intellectual rattle and simple honesty that have characterized so much of Seeger's career.
You'll probably never hear these songs on your local commercial radio, which is a real shame. But, if you're looking for some great topical music, you can't outdo Handy's smart, honest lyrics: "Help us break the chains of hatred ... only in forgiveness of our neighbors and ourselves will we ever know that we truly are free." And if that's not enough, there's: "Your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore / they're already crowded from your dirty little war."