Which Side Are You On? – A Political Playlist

Woodie Guthrie

A criticism often leveled at modern music of is that no one sings political songs anymore – a statement that is both blindly false and shows up the lazy listening practices of music critics everywhere. Political music is as prevalent as ever and spans every genre – from Beyoncé’s take on modern feminism and Pink’s pleads to the president in the pop realm right through to Rage Against The Machine and even Green Day cramming their rock records with political messages.

And of course folk, country and roots are well represented when it comes to the modern political music with many seeing these genres synonymous with the struggles of the common man. As you head out to vote today we thought we’d get you in the mood with a list of ten modern political songs from some of Timber and Steel’s favourite artists

1. Ani DiFranco – “Which Side Are You On?”
In re-imangining the traditional classic (made most famous by Pete Seeger) Ani DiFranco provides a clear bridge from the political music of the mid 20th century and the modern age.

2. Gemini Downs – “Will You Marry Me?”
Marriage equality has gained momentum as a political issue in Australia over the last couple of weeks. We think this track by Adelaide’s Gemini Downs perfectly captures the sentiment of the issue.

3. Ben Harper – “Better Way”
Ben Harper wants to wake us from our apathy and empower us to find a better way: “What good is a man who won’t take a stand? What good is a cynic with no better plan? I believe in a better way”.

4. The Lurkers – “Who’s Got A Padlock And Chain?”
The Lurkers don’t just sing about politics – they live and breathe politics. While others are content to sing about metaphorically chaining themselves to the train tracks, these guys are actually out there chaining themselves to train tracks.

5. Les Thomas – “Song for Selva”
Singer-songwriter and folk evangelist Les Thomas has done so much for refugees in this country, using his music to build awareness, raise money and truly make a difference.

6. John Butler Trio – “Company Sin”
Through a stone at John Butler’s back catalogue and you’re guarenteed to hit a political reference. We thought this track about mining in far north WA would be a nice inclusion for this playlist.

7. Flogging Molly – “Rise Up”
Folk and punk are genres that have been linked with politics for as long as they’ve existed so including a folk-punk anthem in this list was a must

8. The Decemberists – “This Is Why We Fight”
I think the title of this track says it all.

9. Michael Franti & Spearhead – “Yell Fire”
Another great song in the people-take-action tradition of folk and roots music. And very catchy as well!

10. Old Crow Medicine Show – “Levi”
“Levi” does what so many great political songs have done in the past – using the story of an individual to make a comment about a wider issue, in this case war.

3 Comments

  1. September 13, 2013 at 15:12

    Reblogged this on The Barefoot Brainworker and commented:
    Politcal music, alive and well

  2. September 13, 2013 at 15:23

    […] “Folk, country and roots are well represented when it comes to the modern political music with many seeing these genres synonymous with the struggles of the common man” – Gareth Hugh Evans got you in the mood to vote with his political playlist. Blog here […]

  3. September 15, 2013 at 21:04

    Immediately thought of John Butler’s Kimberley while reading the intro to this post …beautiful song 🙂


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