Work in Progress
John McCutcheon says, "After years of being a fan, friend and champion of folk musicians everywhere, Deborah Van Kleef has finally come out with a CD of her own — and it’s a gem. Her long apprenticeship to the likes of Woody Guthrie and Malvina Reynolds is evident in her own luminous compositions, where history, humor and passion combine to give us songs that tell real stories. Whether mining the rich lodes of traditional music, taking on bosses that ride the backs of their workers all the way to the bank, or singing a simple love song to her son, Deborah Van Kleef reminds us and reassures us that music — and we — are powerful."
Stories of ordinary people, some poignant, others wryly humorous, fill this 15-track collection of old-time, jug band, swing, country blues, and traditional and contemporary folk songs.
Six of the 15 tracks are Deborah’s original compositions. “The Great Fast Food Strike” tells the story of the strike by teenaged McDonald’s workers in Macedonia, OH, using the tune of the 19th century ballad “Buffalo Skinners”. Pete Seeger performed the song at the Carnegie Hall concert marking the 50th Anniversary of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. It was also featured in the radio documentary, “Woody Guthrie: Hard Travelin’,” which was produced by WCPN-FM and aired on over 160 stations nationwide.
In “I Changed My Name to Mary Burke,” based on a short autobiographical piece by Deborah’s aunt, a young woman hides her Jewish identity in order to get a job and support her family during the Depression of the 1930’s. “Blackpool” deals humorously with the plight of low-wage workers, comparing the working conditions of a department store clerk in the U.S. with those of the donkeys who give rides to children on the beach at Blackpool, England. (Guess who has better benefits!) Listen for the donkey’s bray at the end.
The other nine tracks include songs by James Keelaghan, Woody Guthrie, Billy Bragg, Lou and Peter Berryman, Malvina Reynolds, the Carter Family and Harold Rome, along with several traditional songs.
“3 Trains” combines song and spoken word, with “Little Black Train,” by Woody Guthrie; the poem, “Train!” by Cuyahoga County’s late poet laureate, Daniel Thompson and “Never Gonna Stop This Train,” by James Keelaghan. The three parts are linked by the dynamic washboard playing of producer Ken Whiteley. “Sing Me a Song with Social
Significance,” from the 1937 revue, “Pins and Needles,” is a light-hearted plea for relief from popular music’s “moon songs” and “June songs.” It features the swing fiddle of Anne Lindsay. Purchase now at CD Baby
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