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A Tale of Two Americas

Rod MacDonald

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Album Review

On his eighth new studio album, A Tale of Two Americas, folk singer/songwriter Rod MacDonald, who has staked out a personal/political landscape including autobiographical reflections and liberal social stances, continues to generate songs consistent with his previous efforts. Since he relocated from the northeast to Florida and started a family, MacDonald's reflections on his own life have becoming dependably domestic, and here he contributes "I'm Your Dad," an affectionate song directed to his infant daughter. "I Am Bob Dylan" is a humorous comment on the experiences of a man who boasts a head of dark (if graying) curly hair and is often seen with a guitar strap around his shoulder and a harmonica rack around his neck, even if he doesn't really resemble his chief influence. The confusion allows him to expand on personal experience to a more general comment on celebrity, and in other songs that reflect his personal participation, he also makes more universal observations: "The Lucky Ones" concerns the 2004 hurricanes that ravaged central Florida, and "Smoke," sung in the voice of a singer in a bar, comically fills in a cigarette addict on the amazing occurrences "while you were outside having a smoke." But much of the album is given over to MacDonald's topical political views, starting with the contrast between "Ray & Ron," Ray Charles and Ronald Reagan, who died in the same week, one a great singer, the other, in MacDonald's judgment, a president who "could sell you things you knew were completely wrong." MacDonald is no more generous to another governor of California in "The Governator," sung in the voice of a certain ex-bodybuilder and movie star who wonders, having saved the world from aliens on screen, "How hard can a simple budget be?" While MacDonald's position is clear in such songs, he leavens his attitude with humor, but he is in deadly earnest in such songs as "Terror," "My Beloved Enemy," "Sacrifice," "Peace," and the title track, in which he repeatedly excoriates American government policies, especially with regard to war and national security. Such sentiments are conveyed through simple folk tunes on which MacDonald, his guitar, and harmonica are accompanied only by a bass and another stringed instrument. The balance of humor and even the occasional romantic sentiment with the political jibes provides a good mixture, and MacDonald, if less concerned with being a poet than he once was, makes up for his plainspoken style with striking arguments, maintaining the folk tradition dating back to Woody Guthrie and beyond that questions authority and pokes fun and the powerful. [The American edition of the album released by Wind River Records contains one more track than the European-released one on Brambus Records, "Here I Stand," an effective song the copyright of which dates back to 1981. Enhanced CD content includes a photograph, promotional material, and links to websites.]

Biography

Born: 1949

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Singer/songwriter Rod MacDonald was a big part of the 1980s folk revival in Greenwich Village clubs. After graduating from Columbia Law School and joining the staff of Newsweek, MacDonald elected to become a folksinger in the 1970s. Via the Fast Folk Music Cooperative, MacDonald and others like Richard Meyer, Christine Lavin, and Michael Jerling were an important part of the rebirth of the folk scene in New York in the 1980s. While MacDonald wasn't exactly a new face to New...
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A Tale of Two Americas, Rod MacDonald
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