Bryan McPherson gained quite a bit of recognition when Disney wouldn’t allow him to open for the Dropkick Murphys in venue inside a property they control. It all came down to politics and they didn’t like his stance on the police and likely other issues. I probably don’t line up all that well with his political views either, we likely see a lot of the same problems but from what I can tell our solutions would be different. The thing the makes me different from Disney is that when I listen to his lyrics I don’t give a single fuck about his politics, even though they are prevalent. What I do care about is that no matter what subject he’s addressing he pours his heart in to it. If you’ve ever read my reviews before you know that I care about honesty in lyrics more than anything else when it comes to the music I choose and McPherson gives up that in spades on Wedgewood.
Calling America the homeland reminds me of the Nazis
The Soviet Union, Stalin, and Liberace
Playin’ games up in Heaven, Monopoly and Yahtzee – Days of Rage
I said I don’t give a fuck about his politics and that’s not actually true. I tend to not discuss my politics on here but some of this is important. While McPherson and I disagree about the solutions there’s quite a lot places where we believe the same things are problematic. To be perfectly honest it’s things like social media and music that have changed my views over time and that’s a good thing. What I should say is that I don’t care about politics in music until they get inside my head and make me think. They don’t always bring me around to the point of view of the artist but anything that takes one out one’s comfort zone and starts an internal dialog is worth listening to. The key to making this happen is to be a good enough writer that one can’t dismiss what you’re writing about and McPherson shines bright on that aspect.
And who has a song for Kelly that we can all scream
While he bleeds on my internet screen
Oh he’s not me, no he’s not me – Kelly Thomas
While not the same topic and not the same musical approach, this is a similar album to Lee Bains III and Glory Fires‘ Dereconstructed in that Wedgewood isn’t trying to start a conversation, it’s trying to start an argument. It’s an argument that needs to be had whether we are comfortable having it or not. I challenge you to listen to “Kelly Thomas” and not seriously consider the problems we are having across the country right now. Musically this is a pretty much a traditional protest album in that the music is folk and McPherson uses his guitar and harmonica like weapons to underscore the points he’s making. Bryan is often described as folk-punk and I guess that’s adequate but I personally feel like there’s much more to it than that. I struggle to find the words that I think describe McPherson’s music but “guerrilla-folk” comes close so that’s what I’ll use.
She came to this world with her fists in the air
In the middle of Kansas, in the middle of somewhere
But every day she had to get out
Some of us come lost but gotta get found – Born on a Highway
I’m not trying to say that every song on here is an in-your-face political statement; while those may shine the brightest to me at this moment, I can feel tracks like “Born on the Highway” and “Hearts in Boxcars” creeping in and making themselves at home somewhere in my head along with the others. The emotion in those songs is as raw and visceral as the anger in the protest songs and while the writing here is not as polished as some of the songwriters we know and love that’s not always a bad thing. The roughness in the lyrics acts as a mirror to everyday life where very little is cut and dry and there’s not a lot polish to be found. For me, that is one of the aspects of this album that stands out to, nothing is overproduced or overwritten, it’s all laid out right in front of the listener.
And the dreams that you once had, you’ll never have
It’ll all go black
There’s no good and there’s no bad and there’s no sad
It’ll all go black – Wasted World
I guess the political side of this record is so very right now that it stands out a lot. I have a feeling that Wedgewood won’t get the recognition it deserves. Of course our crowd will pick it up but let’s be honest, there’s too much here that will make the average Joe uncomfortable for it really take off. It’s a sad state of affairs when you see people unwilling to admit that there are problems in the US that are going to be painful to fix, to watch otherwise intelligent people defending the status quo without ever thinking about the consequences. I can’t help but come back, over and over again to Shane Sweeney‘s words “A painful fight for liberty ain’t the worst thing that could happen to this land” and I don’t think Bryan McPherson would disagree with that sentiment, at least not if I’ve managed to understand anything at all about this record. I can state, without reservation, that for all the things that this album is or isn’t, it is Essential Listening and will be one of my top albums of 2015. So go get yourself a copy, pour a drink, and listen closely because this man is saying things that desperately need to be said and in a way that all us ought to be able to appreciate.