BONUS TRACKS: Billy Bragg Offers a Counterpoint on ‘Rich Men’
Billy Bragg (photo by Jill Furmanovsky)
Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond” song went straight to the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart this week and was even the topic of the first question in Wednesday night’s debate with Republican presidential candidates. It’s evidently been on Billy Bragg’s mind, too; he released the song “Rich Men Earning North of a Million” this week as something of a rebuttal. “If you’re selling your soul, working all day / Overtime hours for bullshit pay / Nothing’s gonna change if all you do / Is wish you could wake up and it not be true,” it begins, echoing Anthony’s melody and lyrics but offering unions as a solution to many of the problems that the original song laments. Bragg’s song gets more direct as it goes, asking “Are you gonna take action now you’ve sung your damn song?”
“Since I saw that clip of Oliver Anthony singing his song ‘Rich Men North of Richmond’, the ghost of Woody Guthrie has been whispering in my ear,” Bragg writes in the description of his song on YouTube. “ ‘Help that guy out,’ Woody keeps telling me. ‘Let him know there’s a way to deal with those problems he’s singing about.’ So today I sat down and wrote this response to Mr. Anthony’s song, for people like him and people like you.” You can hear the whole song below:
The new Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma (ND story) and Universal Music Publishing Group announced this week the Bob Dylan Center Songwriter Fellowship. Two songwriters each year will receive a $40,000 stipend, time in the Center’s Bob Dylan archive, mentoring from UMPG songwriters and executives, studio time at Leon Russell’s The Church Studio in Tulsa, and publicity and performance opportunities. Recipients will be selected by a panel of artists that includes Patty Griffin, John Mellencamp, and Nas. Learn more about the fellowship and apply here by Oct. 18.
Can’d Aid is going back to the water for a second year of its Fishing With a Musician benefit auction, which raises money to donate instruments to underserved school districts nationwide. The program also provides performances from professional musicians who share their stories with students and introduce them to bluegrass, funk, Americana, and other genres they may have never heard. Between now and Oct. 15, you can bid on the chance to spend a day fishing with outdoorsy musicians like Woody Platt or Steep Canyon Rangers’ Graham Sharp in North Carolina, Kelsey Waldon in Kentucky, Lindsay Lou in Wyoming, Wyatt Ellis in Tennessee, and many more artists and locales. Check out who’s participating and put in a bid here.
CD sales are still dismally low compared to their early aughts heyday. But someone’s still buying them, and it’s not just your middle-aged friends. The Washington Post reports that Gen Z has taken an interest in the format, viewing CDs as, well, mere decoration sometimes, but also, more meaningfully, as collectibles that offer photos and design elements they can’t get from streaming. And — god bless ’em — young adult music lovers raised on streaming recognize that buying CDs is a meaningful way to support their favorite artists. Here’s hoping they discover the tangible delights of print magazines next (ahem)!
WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO
Here’s a sampling of the songs, albums, bands, and sounds No Depression staffers have been into this week:
Jim Lauderdale and Po’ Ramblin’ Boys feat. Del McCoury – “Long and Lonesome Letting Go,” the title track from their new collaborative album, coming in September
Unspoken Tradition – “Weeds Don’t Wither”
Sister Hazel – “Coconut Trees”
Margo Price feat. Buck Meek, Jonathan Wilson, and Ny Oh – “Act I: Topanga Canyon,” from Strays II, an expanded album coming in October
Bella White – “Dublin Blues” (Guy Clark cover)
Aga Khan Master Musicians – “Tashkent,” from their new album, Nowruz, coming in October
Mireya Ramos & The Poor Choices – “I Fall to Pieces” (Patsy Cline cover), from her new album, Sin Fronteras, coming in September
Margaret Glaspy – “Get Back”
Zara Alexandra – “Going Back”
First Aid Kit – “Once Upon a Time”
Zella Day – “Hand As My Arrow”
Black Pumas – “More Than a Love Song,” from their new album, Chronicles of a Diamond, coming in October