Les Thomas, “Survivor’s Tale”

“Learning is neverending.” Les Thomas.

Progressive Melbourne residents are familiar with Les Thomas. Like his hero Woody Guthrie, Les is passionately committed to social justice in his own land, and he regards, quite rightly, our abuse of the rights of asylum seekers as a matter of particular urgency. Most of the songs on “Survivor’s Tale” have been heard at protests and benefits, performed by Les on his acoustic guitar.
This album, although it contains such passionate and polemical songs as “Free Ranjini” and “Song for Selva”, is a venture into electric and collective music. In Les’s words, he had “lots of amazing help from different musicians” in its creation. The result is a well-produced rock album with a very Australian feel, a definite contribution (and tribute) to a fine Australian social songwriting tradition. (In a lot of places, this sort of music would be called folk-rock, I guess, because it has a strong Irish influence and often involves a violin. Australians mostly think of it as rock music).
This is a new adventure, an experiment. Often it soars, sometimes it clangs, just a bit. But is the rawness and experimental nature of the music that makes it attractive, encouraging repeated listens. The lyrics are an invitation to experience empathically the journey and outrage of the detained Australian refugee, as good social songwriting should do. There is a more personal invitation in the music.
Survivor’s Tale, in a generous and open-hearted fashion, invites the listener to share Les’s love of his craft, his enthusiasm for expanding his musical horizons. “I definitely tried to do everything as well as possible and learned heaps”, he told me. “I am keen to keep raising the bar as possible with future recordings.”. Since it is just the kind of musical journey I like, I for one am aboard. When you listen to Survivor’s Tale, you’ll be on the bandwagon with me.

The News from David Rovics

David Rovics really does bring you all the news that’s fit to sing. What’s more, he could be doing it in your town, on his next tour.
“…what’s striking about Rovics is his enduring and seemingly tireless commitment to the life of a radical grassroots troubadour, and his ability to bring first-hand reports of local struggles from around the world to each community that he visits.” Wally Brooker
Here’s some examples.You can probably find others, here. For the sake of proper music listeners (who need an album, thanks very much) I have constructed a soundcloud playlist. For the news-oriented types, the article is linked to the quote below.

Soundcloud: The News from David Rovics

Oil Train
America’s Exploding Oil Train Problem
Last July, a tanker train filled with North Dakota crude derailed in the middle of the night in Lac-Mégantic, a small Canadian town near the border with Maine; the resulting inferno killed 47 people. Since then, derailments in Casselton, North Dakota, and Lynchburg, Virginia, have led to evacuations. The Lac-Mégantic disaster spurred protests from fire chiefs and town officials who said that they were ill-equipped to deal with a possible derailment.

The Commons
Will Detroit’s Water Be Privatized or Recognized as Commons?”
Detroit: “The People’s Water Board is working to have water recognized as a Commons, an entity that serves and is managed by the public. In this world of privatization, the Commons is a powerful antidote to predatory capitalism.”

Has the Bombing Begun?
US Sending 200 Troops for Drills in Ukraine: Pentagon
“The presence of 200 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade will mark the first deployment of US ground troops to Ukraine since the Kiev government’s conflict with pro-Russia separatists erupted earlier this year.”

Syria, 2013
Syria is Not a Revolution Any More- This is a Civil War.”
Like many others, the three men are bewildered at what has become of their war. Their alliances – and their goals – are shifting. The regime is far away, the jihadis are near – and seem unstoppable. Their resources are dwindling; their families are shattered. Their villages and farm lands are lost to regime militias. Their allies are at best unreliable, and at worst actively conspiring against them.
They are a businessman, a smuggler and an army defector who became respectively the political officer, treasurer and military commander of a once-formidable battalion in northern Syria.

Good Kurds, Bad Kurds
Pentagon Warns That Isis has Global Aspirations as US Continue Iraq Strikes.”
America’s own effort to build an international coalition against Isis advanced on Tuesday as well, as Britain and six other nations agreed to provide the Kurdish peshmerga militia with small arms, ammunition and other supplies.

Banner Suspended Above Downtown Roanoke, Calls Out Coal Baron Billionaire
Roanoke, VA – “Early this morning members of Mountain Justice, Rising Tide North America and Radical Action for Mountain’s and Peoples’ Survival (RAMPS) hung a banner, suspended between two downtown buildings on Jefferson street in Roanoke. The groups are acting in support of community demands in Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee that billionaire coal baron Jim Justice stop poisoning water, exposing communities to devastating mountaintop removal coal mining operations and leaving central Appalachia a public health disaster.”

His Hands Were in the Air
Ferguson and Global Struggle for Justice.”
“The Justice Department has formally announced a civil rights probe of the police department in Ferguson, Missouri, where the unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown was killed last month. The announcement follows weeks of protests sparked by Brown’s death that brought to light allegations of racial profiling and other police abuses against African-American residents.”

Minimum Wage Strike
Nearly 500 Striking Fast Food Workers Arrested, Fight for 15 Intensifies
“Nearly 500 fast-food workers—in uniforms from restaurants like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s—were arrested Thursday during a 150-city strike, as the fight for $15 and union rights intensified across the country. Thousands of cooks and cashiers walked off their jobs from more than 1,000 stores, chanting “We Believe That We Will Win,” and vowing to do whatever it takes to secure higher wages and union rights.”