CD review by Tony Smith
To mark the 50th anniversary of the death of the famed Woody (Woodrow Wilson) Guthrie, Bruce Hearn assembled The Machinists.
The band name reflects Guthrie’s slogan ‘this machine kills fascists’ which emblazoned his guitar.
This double CD album of 20 tracks is mainly songs penned by the prolific Guthrie himself.
It is indeed a powerful reminder of the courage shown by Guthrie and the influence which he has had both in the USA and internationally.
The Machinists are Hearn (vocals, guitar, banjo, harmonica), Kavisha Mazzella (vocals, guitar, mandolin), Peter Beulke (backing vocals, double bass), Chris Pascoe (backing vocals, accordion) and Craig Woodward (backing vocals, mandolin, fiddle).
They are joined by special guests Eric Bogle (with Peter Tichner), Margret RoadKnight, ‘Magical’ Mic Conway, Kerri Simpson, Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky and the Victorian Trade Union Choir.
Hearn also mentions many performers who contributed to other tribute concerts around the country.
Bruce Hearn sings ‘Song to Woody’ (by another admirer, Bob Dylan), ‘Oklahoma Hills’, ‘I Ain’t Got No Home’, ‘Jesus Christ’, ‘Sacco and Vancetti’, ‘Worried Man Blues’, ‘Lonesome Valley’ and ‘All You Fascists’.
Kavisha sings ‘Pastures of Plenty’ and ‘Deportee’.
The Machinists are there for ‘Will You Miss Me’.
Blues diva, Kerri Simpson, has ‘Ramblin’ Round’ and Yarn Wositzky ‘Hobo’s Lullaby’.
Eric Bogle sings ‘Vigilante Man’ and ‘Hard Ain’t It Hard’, Margret RoadKnight ‘The Rape of Ruth Farnsworth’ and the Victorian Trade Union Choir, ‘Union Maid’, while Mic Conway asks ‘What Did the Deep Sea Say?’.
The concert concludes with mass singings of ‘This Train is Bound for Glory’ and ‘This Land Is Your Land’.
With so many contributions from seasoned performers, it would be wrong to single out particular songs.
Each track is handled professionally and with the spirit of the great folk composer in mind.
It is good to be reminded just how prolific Woody Guthrie’s output was, and in a time and place where to be critical of racism and oppressive businessmen placed protest singers in personal danger.
Hearn observes that with threats to peace, equality and the environment being so great lately, this 2019 album will carry many important messages from Woody Guthrie, who died at the age of 55 of Huntingdon’s Disease.
Some of us might prefer the slogan to say that ‘this machine kills fascism’ rather than fascists, but not everyone will worry about such niceties.
The album is dedicated to activists everywhere who strive to improve the lives of the powerless.
With Australia’s wealth increasingly dominated by the richest people, the ranks of the powerless are growing, just as they were in Guthrie’s depression era.
His songs are timeless.