Album Review – Dropkick Murphys – “This Machine Still Kills Fascists”

There are two main schools of thought on who is the father of country music. It is claimed to be The Singing Breakman Jimmie Rodgers. Another credits AP Carter of The Carter Family. But Woody Guthrie deserves at least an honorable mention, even if he’s more closely associated with the folk side of American rural music. Originally from Oklahoma, Woody certainly had an outsized influence on Red Dirt and other varieties of country music. Combine that with how Celtic folk is one of the core elements of country music, and a concept record combining Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys with compositions by Woody Guthrie sounds like a cool fusion.

Cut the album to Tulsa near Woody’s birthplace and recruit Evan Felker of the Turnpike Troubadours and Nikki Lane to contribute, and you sweeten the pot even more. Some were concerned when Dropkick confided that this album was recorded acoustically. Oh, but don’t worry, abundant energy, blood and guts were part of those recordings. It’s not a folk or country album. It’s first and foremost a Dropkick Murphys album. But it’s the folk and country inflections that make it unique and interesting.

Listening to the opening song “Two 6’s Upside Down,” you think, “Damn, that could be a country song” since it’s about incarceration. But it’s still Woody Guthrie’s lyrics delivered with the Dropkick Murphys Celtic attitude and attack. Merle Haggard and Johnny Paycheck have made a career out of themes like imprisonment and the plight of workers, and this album has a lot to say about workers’ rights and wealth inequality as you’d expect from the material. by Woody Guthrie.

While it’s most certainly true in some ways that Woody Guthrie’s words still resonate with relevance today, they were also written in a distinctly different time. By Woody Guthrie’s time, fascists had taken over the entire European continent. These days, a fascist might be someone you simply have a tacit disagreement with on Twitter. While in Woody’s day workers were dying in workplace accidents at an alarming rate, these days workers’ rights often revolve around working from home and solving bosses’ microaggressions that refuse to use preferred pronouns.

That’s not to say that workers don’t deserve better rights and that the robber barons of yore don’t have comparable equivalents to today’s business and technology oligarchs who control obscene amounts of wealth and power. . But some of the verbiage and incendiary attitude found in these songs seems a little archaic, especially some of the slogans around unionization for anyone who has watched a Martin Scorsese movie or episodes of The Sopranos which illustrate how some unions don’t stop the exploitation of workers, they just put it in the hands of a different group of sleazeballs.

But the spirit and passion with which Woody Guthrie approached his causes is done justice on this album by the Dropkick Murphys and their collaborators. You feel the fervor in songs like “Ten Times More” and “All You Phonies” that come from a time when the common man was treated like chattel by the ruling class, and the punk attitude that underlies everything Dropkick Murphys is here full throated. But there’s also a sweeter moment when they’re joined by Nikki Lane for the understated Celtic folk-style “Never Git Drunk No More.” Similar to “Two 6’s Upside Down”, it features songwriting that would also make a good country song.

Moreover, however, This machine still kills fascists it’s just a fun record. It’s a good driving record, a good listening record, it gets your blood pumping, your foot pounding and your fist shaking. He has the perfect attitude to let off steam, and a populist message in a time when much like Woody’s, the chasm between haves and have-nots is completely out of kilter, despite the ease of modernity. Some words and fashions might be a bit outdated, but the passion cuts through and packs a punch.

The roots and brambles of all traditional music tend to intertwine and gravitate around the universal plight of the poor, farmers and workers, even crossing oceans and connecting continents and eras. Besides delivering a record of kick-ass music, the Dropkick Murphys present an illustration of how all of these root genres are cohorts, and in a way that’s palatable. Doing this while performing Woody Guthrie songs — including some unreleased and curated by the family — couldn’t have been easy. But the Dropkick Murphys made it look like it was while having a good time in the process.


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Toya J. Bell