New York's prolific eccentric vents anti-Bush spleen
Scant consolation maybe, but the flipside of Dubya’s dodgy defence policy is the re-emergence of music as protest (Steve Earle, Mark Olsen and the Pernice Brothers are among the most recently active). Like Earle, though, idiosyncratic veteran Eugene Chadbourne has been venting his political spleen for some time now. Initially a devotee of Coltrane jazz and Derek Bailey’s avant-improv, Chadbourne’s early albums on returning from Canadian exile (ducking the Vietnam draft, he was granted amnesty in 1976) featured sax virtuoso John Zorn. In 1982 he formed rockabilly ruckers Shockabilly, and touching Reagan tribute The President He Is Insane landed two years later, followed by Country Protest featuring The Red Clay Ramblers and Lenny Kaye.
In response to another “era of fear and loathing”, he’s now delivered a sequel, instigated and abetted by Wisconsin’s Carl Johns-led NoahJohn (see also Charlemagne, below). Country Protest Anew is an urgent howl of a record that’s funny, poignant and compassionate without ever coming off preachy. The most vicious sideswipes?”Coward”, “Don’t Burn The Flag, Let’s Burn The Bush”?are breakneck fiddle-fests, but there’s a subtlety to covers of Donovan’s “Ballad Of A Crystal Man” (a deep, bassy, Lee Hazlewood approach) and Bruce Piephoff’s mandolin/accordion-scented “Wind From Newport News” that belies Chadbourne’s nasally, oft-unhinged attack. When he plays it straight?”Hot Buttered Rum”, with lonesome viola melting into lovelorn lap-steel?he’s outstanding. Agitated takes on TLC (“Waterfalls”) and Lauryn Hill (“Lost Ones” reimagined as skewed bluegrass) might appear wilfully enigmatic but work brilliantly, as does a choppy version of Love’s “Mushroom Clouds”. Wonderful.