Making it through the Dark of the Night with Trampled Under Foot
Trampled Under Foot is a hot, blues band from Kansas, who have, rightly, been acclaimed by blues guitarist Bob Margolin as “one of the most popular and visible bands on today’s blues scene.” A family band, consisting of a sister and two brothers, Danielle, Kris and Nick, they’ve never looked back since winning the Blues Foundation’s 24th International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2008. Since then we’ve had two excellent albums, Wrong Side of the Blues (2011) and then in July of this year, Badlands, which reached number 1 in the Billboard Blues Chart.
The band’s name comes from a Led Zeppelin song from the 1975 album Physical Graffiti and they play unabashed electric rock blues. They come from a blues family and clearly have a deep sense of what the blues is all about. Danielle Schnebelen says, “Blues, to me, means raw emotion. It is the telling of your soul through music. It can’t be faked and it can’t be bought. It doesn’t have limits and you definitely can’t run from them. I learn who I am through the blues. Through the songs I write, the music I play. I learn how strong I am and also how absolutely vulnerable I feel sometimes too.” Her brother Kris agrees with Willie Dixon that the blues is the truth – “The blues is the truth in life, love, and personal experience.”
The new album, Badlands, which Blues Revue suggests is the album “to beat for anything in the running for Best Blues Album of the Year,” is jam-packed with soulful melodies, passionate singing, pulsating drum work and catchy guitar riffs. It is modern electric blues at its best. Drummer Kris Schnebelen has said that he thinks the blues should be “modern, energetic, vibrant, soulful and some of the best live music you can see.” Well, TUF has hit the bulls-eye on that target with this release.
One of the stand-out songs is Dark of the Night, musically an engaging, funky number driven by keyboard riffs and Danielle’s powerful, raspy and soulful vocals. Lyrically it takes a long, hard, realistic look at the world around and doesn’t like what it sees and hears – cries, echoing “through the streets…and into my mind,” cries that are “from mamas losin’ babies goin’ down at the start of their lives.” “Living a life without that misery,” sings Danielle, “Shouldn’t be too much to ask.”
The song recognizes the gap that increasingly exists between the rich and the poor, even in our modern western democracies in 2013. “People can’t eat, Wind up on the street
Doin’ things they said they’d never do, Just to make ends meet.” The wealth gap between the top 1% and the bottom 99% in the world’s wealthiest nation, the US, is as wide as it’s been in nearly 100 years, according to a recent study by economists at UC Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics and Oxford University. Check out this short video clip which shows the amazing and appalling reality about wealth distribution in the US, where the top 20% of people have over 80% of the wealth, and where a full 60% of the population has around only 5% of the wealth!
In the UK, A report published by Oxfam last year found that the country is rapidly returning to Dickensian levels of inequality. If we look further afield around the world, just 0.1% of all people own around 80% of all the financial wealth. Check out this infographic for a list of shocking inequality statistics.
“Where’s it all gone?” asks the song and then laments that “civility’s gone.” Civility and neighborliness are always the victims of an aggressive accumulation in society. Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggeman characterizes the Egyptian Pharaoh’s regime as one of anxious accumulation – it is “a predatory system that is devoid of neighborliness and that treats the powerless like replaceable parts.” He sees the same dynamic in our modern world and concludes, “Accumulation destroys neighborliness.”
What’s to be done? The inequality in the world is a complex problem which includes tax inequality, unfair trade rules that disadvantage poorer nations, global warming, a broken banking system and commodity speculation. Some of these things we aren’t going to fix quickly, though much can be achieved whenever ordinary people cry “enough” and join together to lobby for change. TUF’s song points to another, more basic requirement,
“We clearly can’t do it alone, we need some help to get across.
So let’s get it together, Join hands one and all
Turn this world around before we take a fall
We need the Holy Spirit, and his praises shine
Every child needs a brother and a mother needs some love in their life
And He brings joy with that healing light
To make it through the dark of the night.”
“Well, we’re crying for a change,” the songs says – and the change starts with me. With the help of the Holy Spirit, each of us has our part to play in “joining hand,” giving others “some love in their life,” and looking for “that healing light, To make it through the dark of the night.”
(First published at Down at the Crossroads)