2001 CD release USA Revolting Records
Recorded at Steve Yates Studio, Chicago/Morton Grove
Additional material recorded at WBEZ Radio, Chicago
Bucky Halker and the Complete Unknowns doing arrangements of classic and unknown American working-class protest songs, 1865-1950
I started performing a few Guthrie and Leadbelly songs as a teenager. I didn’t perform a lot of labor protest songs, however, until the 1980s when I was researching, writing, and lecturing on the subject. I started doing labor concerts as a side project to my own music. I toured Germany a couple times doing concerts on American labor history and music. People asked for recordings and I hadn’t done anything.
Finally, I went to work on a CD. I tried to mix a few of the standards of Guthrie and Leadbelly with material and writers that hardly anyone knew about. I also mixed a more typical performance style with a strong revisionist approach. Hell, these songs deserve to be heard all kinds of ways as long as it gets the word out, right? Ain’t that the point?
I chopped and channeled these songs and took ‘em down all kinds of roads—hard country, traditional folk, straight rock and roll, West Coast post-war R&B, and a little bit of anything else that I thought made ‘em sound good and interesting to perform. Frankly, I’m sure that some folk nazis don’t like this recording. Who cares? There’s something important happening here—-great songs, solid arrangements, heavy doses of the right attitude, engaged and fiery performances, and edifying liner notes. I’m very proud of this recording.
I got great support. You can’t do any better than having Studs Terkel read a couple poems. Robbie Fulks did background vocals on the title track. There’s also Don Stiernberg on mandolin, T.C. Furlong and Paul Carastia on pedal steel, Amy Matheny doing background vocals, Steve Yates on keyboards, Gordon Patriarca and Marc Edelstein on bass, and Drew Enselman on percussion. Brothers, sisters, fellow workers: Feed your head and shake your booty!