Second helping of Woody Guthrie songs revived by Boston Celtic punk rockers.
‘Okemah Rising’ essentially is ‘This Machine Still Kills Fascists’ volume two, the Boston band releasing the remaining 10 songs recorded in Tulsa’s Church Studio where they set Woody Guthrie lyrics to Dropkick Murphys music. In the AUK review of ‘This Machine Still Kills Fascists’ our reviewer was already looking forward to a second helping and it’s fair to say that those who were bowled over by the first album will be equally smitten by this one while those who might have felt that the Murphys’ frantic approach overpowered the words will merely confirm that this remains the case.
This reviewer holds to the latter view but does applaud the band for their unashamed celebration of Guthrie’s original sentiments, his championing of the working people and his anti-fascist stance, both in evidence here on ‘Boundary Line’ and ‘Run Hitler Run’ respectively. One can’t help but applaud a band whose last single was a reworked version of Guthrie’s ‘All You Fonies’, (recorded on the first album), renamed ‘All You Tories’ and released, in the words of frontman and Dropkick Murphys’ founder Ken Casey, “In support of all our Union friends in the UK fighting the good fight against the elitist Tory political party.”
That said, the ten songs here tend to hammer home the point with barely a moment to take breath. It might be manna from heaven for those likely to be found in a mosh pit careening around as the band deliver their punk-infused Celtic folk rock but there is a thing to said for subtlety also, although if that’s what you are after then perhaps Dropkick Murphys are not the best place to start. They do inject some high-spirited humour into the tale of a wastrel who has the table turned on him by his long-suffering wife on ‘Bring It Home’ while ‘When I Was A Little Boy’ is quite poignant as Guthrie prepares a child for the struggles ahead. Both these songs feature Jaime Wyatt as a guest vocalist and the Violent Femmes appear on the frenetic thrash of ‘Gotta Get To Peekskill’.
They close this album with a new version of their adaptation of Guthrie’s ‘Shipping Off To Boston’ which they originally recorded in 2005 and which featured in the movie ‘The Departed’. This acoustic version is just as full of braggadocio as the original as the band elongate Guthrie’s original four-line ditty into yet another headbanger. Overall, top marks for being right on and all that, but some marks deducted for the lack of nuance.