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The Nightwatchman Newest Single: Tom Morello Rejuvenates the Folk Protest Song
From Johnny Cash, to Bob Dylan, to the Clash, to Rage Against the Machine, popular music has served as a great vehicle to get across ideas about politics, culture and society. Rage Against the Machine was known for being one of the most active during the 90s as well as one of the most popular for their blend of political and social commentary with rap, hip hop, hard rock and metal (as of recently, they have reunited for a made a slight comeback, which is quite exciting, lets hope there is a new album planned too). Tom Morello was/is the innovative guitarist from this group as well as a major driving force behind the group's political voice.
Morello's credits outside of his music include a politically minded organization designed to uphold ideas of grassroots politics, human rights and freedom called the Axis of Justice, (http://www.axisofjustice.org) founded with Serj Tankian of another great band: System of a Down. This organization includes promoting a number of political and human rights causes, as well as a radio show that blends political commentary with music and benefit concert events to raise awareness for political causes.
It was through the Axis of Justice, a few years ago I think, that I first learned about Morello's other musical project, The Nightwatchman. The groups consists primarily of Morello on acoustic guitar and vocals and is a departure from his previous groups in musicality and production. The lyrical content though, which is still focused on politics, cultural change, human rights and freedom does fit in quite well with both his work with Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. When I first heard about this project, I checked out a few of the tracks that had been recorded almost immediately and found them really quite good. After the first Axis of Justice concert series album was released I finally was able to have these songs on album. Today discovered that the Nightwatchman album has finally been released (actually on April 24 I believe) and new singles are being promoted, including a music video.
The video I've seen is for "The Road I Must Travel" and although I'm not overly fond of the production techniques (backing parts seem to detract from the folksy quality of the song), the song itself is great. In the tradition of some of the great folk artists it is earthy and sounds straight out of the American heartland, especially today's more chaotic America. The other songs from the album I've heard include "One Man Revolution" , "House Up in Flames", "Union Song" and "Until the End". All of these songs really speak to me, especially "House Up in Flames" which is incredibly good. "Union Song" has a little more rock and roll swagger and features very topical lyrics that surely makes for a great rally song, while the intricate, yet gritty guitar work of "In the End" combined with it's heartfelt and powerful lyrics make it my favorite song so far, with "House Up in Flames" not far behind.
Morello's folk songs sound very immediate, and his passion willingness to stand up for what he feels is right comes though perfectly in his songwriting, guitar playing and especially his vocal style. Probably my favorite thing about the songs I've heard is that although they are topical if you want them to be, they are not always clear cut with clearly defined good and evil, a sign that I think demonstrates that he understands that these issues are not black and white and that makes them sound very authentic. He is kind of rejuvenating the folk protest song for the modern times, times when a social conscience is needed more than ever. The music reminds me a lot of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen all rolled into one, but darker and grittier, (a solo cover of Springsteen's "Born in the USA" would probably be incredible). There is an anger there that is enough to make the songs very passionate and powerful without sounding depressing or aggressive. Instead sounding very idealistic and revolutionary, making them great rallying songs for improving the world.
When I first heard "In the End" a while back, I believed that Morello was committed to his cause but after hearing a little more of the album, I believe that Tom Morello is indeed out to be a one man revolution, and he just might succeed in changing the world. In the chaotic times that we are now living, I'm glad to have the Nightwatchman around making great music, but also reminding us that we have the power to change the world if we're willing to stand up for what we believe in, dream of a better reality and not accept the status quo.
Check out the Nightwatchman website where you can listen to three of the tracks I discussed here from the new album: http://www.nightwatchmanmusic.com/
Also, you can view the video for "The Road I Must Travel" here from sony: http://musicbox.sonybmg.com/video/the_nightwatchman/
Also, check out the Axis of Justice website for more information about this organization and links to a variety of interesting news stories not often discussed in the mainstream: http://www.axisofjustice.org/
You can buy the new Nightwatchman album directly from Amazon here: One Man Revolution
And you can buy the original Axis of Justice Concert Series album, which features some performances from the Nightwatchman as well as a number of other artists, directly from Amazon here: Axis of Justice: Concert Series Volume 1 (Bonus DVD)