Dump the Bosses Off Your Back
CD by Anne Feeney $14.99
Reviewed by Michael G. Matejka, Union News
Anne Feeney is an old-fashioned union hell-raiser, and she’s dipped deep into union roots for her latest musical effort, “Dump the Bosses Off Your Back.”
Anne reaches back a century to the radical Industrial Workers of the World, a union that never had the membership numbers of the AFL or the CIO, but certainly left an imprint on labor’s culture. The IWW was a singing union, using popular songs and transforming their lyrics to send a very direct message to the working class.
Anne takes some IWW standards, like “Dump the Bosses, ” “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum” and “Preacher and the Slave,” updating them both lyrically and musically, producing lively takes on old standards.
With the recent mine disasters in Utah and West Virginia, Anne adds some very touching songs about miners and the risks they face. She helped perform and write music for a play, “Buried,” about the Sago Mine Disaster. She performs “How Much for the Life of a Miner,” an original composition she wrote for the play. Particularly touching is “Sago,” by Kiya Heartwood, which shares the lament of a wife whose husband is never coming back.
Other current events get remembered, including Santiago Cruz, a Farm Labor Organizing Committee member who was killed in Mexico last year, while attempting to cross-border organize farm laborers.
With our current multinational economy, listen close for “Brave New Christmas,” by John William Davis, which tells what happens when Santa and his elves are outsourced, losing their North Pole jobs to those in warmer climes.
Anne is no stranger to central Illinois, having sung for strikers, locked-out workers and union rallies throughout our area. For those who remember her spirited appearances, these are a great way to reconnect with a fighting rebel; if you haven’t had the experience yet, check out “Dump the Bosses.”
Manny Theiner's Review in Pittsburgh CityPaper
Before Whole Foods and biodiesel, before Iraq war protests and WTO riots, there marched Anne Feeney. The native Pittsburgher still champions the same causes of organized labor and social justice for which she's been agitating since the raging days of Vietnam. She tours the country on the frontlines of the struggle against exploitation and oppression (she stopped in 41 states and five countries in 2007 alone), and an appreciation of her commitment should be strengthened by a few spins of her sixth CD, Dump the Bosses Off Your Back.
Feeney is the ultimate protest singer, covering tunes from her contemporaries as well as unearthing late-19th-century protest songs from the Wobblies (International Workers of the World, of which she's a card-carrying member). On several tracks, she ropes in special guests: the Austin Lounge Lizards, singing barbershop harmonies on the gospel-tinged "You Will Answer"; legendary country-rock hippie Commander Cody on the boogie-woogie "Preacher and the Slave"; and Maryland lesbian-folk duo Emma's Revolution on the country-roots "Hillcrest Mine."
Feeney is able to straddle many genres -- those listed above as well as upbeat polka, jazz and swing, and Tex-Mex accordion flavor, on "A Song for Santiago Cruz" (about an organizer of migrant workers who was murdered last year). There's anthemic rock 'n' roll on "We Fought Back" (backed by members of veteran punkers A.T.S.), and even a bit of riotous acousti-punk on "Ya Basta!"
Three songs were written by Feeney for performances of Buried, a play about the Sago mine disaster, and she also includes a sort of sound-collage piece, layering news reports of layoffs over a rendition of the well-known ditty "Hallelujah, I'm a Bum." And a throwback surprise awaits at the disc's end: a bluegrass version of "Whatever You Say, Say Nothing," by Colum Sands (brother of Irish folk legend Tommy), recorded 18 years ago with now-deceased local folk/blues legend D.C. Fitzgerald on guitar.
Overall, you can't get more comprehensively informed about traditional protest music in Pittsburgh than by listening to Anne Feeney, and this album proves her inimitable staying power yet again.
Anne Feeney CD release. 7 p.m. Sat., Apr. 26. Club Café, 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. $10. 412-431-4950 or www.clubcafelive.com
Kate Caffery's review in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Music Preview: Anne Feeney wants the bosses off our backs
Thursday, April 24, 2008
By Kate McCaffrey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Photo by Julie Leonardsson
Singer/songwriter/musician/labor activist Anne Feeney has made a career out of protesting.
Anne Feeney is none of the following: meek, subtle or willing to negotiate what she believes is right. But you can figure that out by reading the song titles of her new album "Dump the Bosses off Your Back."
Her newest collection of labor and protest songs includes, along with the title track, "Goonies" (described as "A bastard cousin to the scab and the management consultant" in the liner notes), "We Fought Back," "Sago," "Ya Basta!," and "How Much for the Life of a Miner?," among others. Six of the 15 tracks are Feeney originals.
So if you own a large business and farm jobs overseas in order to create a higher profit margin for yourself, "Dump the Bosses off Your Back" is not the CD for you.
* Where: Club Cafe, South Side.
* When: 7 p.m. Saturday.
* Admission: $10; 412-431-4950.
Feeney, 56 and a Swissvale native, has been protesting against The Man since her college days at Pitt. During a student sit-in in what's now David Lawrence Hall, some administrator, in an attempt to convince her to leave, told her she seemed "like a wholesome young girl" and that "Nelson Mandela was a terrorist who was going to die in prison." Neither comment compelled Feeney to knock it off.
Instead, she has made a living sounding off against oppression and anti-labor issues, fighting for the blue-collar worker. Feeney has spent the past two decades touring the country, spreading her gospel of labor love. "Dump the Bosses off Your Back" is par for the course -- Feeney not only preaching to but rousing the choir.
Lyrics such as those in "Goonies" ("Now when workers are tossed out on the street, you'll find goonies/You come swarmin' like maggots on putrid meat, goonies/Kin to jackels [sic], hyenas, leaches [sic] and skunks/Go back to dog kickin', wife beatin' and rollin' drunks") won't do much to further the cause of a living wage and keeping jobs in America. Nor do they examine the complex problems of unemployed blue-collar workers in old mill or factory towns.
But perhaps this was never Feeney's intention, because she is well pleased with the results.
"I don't think I've ever had so many songs on one album that I feel so strongly about," she said.
She paused to consider which song currently had her the most worked up. "The story of Santiago Cruz," she continued, referring to a song she wrote about the organizer for farm labor found beaten to death last April. "I think that if people understood how difficult it is to get decent work and conditions for immigrants and how vital they are. ... We've depended on immigrant work ever since we abolished slavery. But the hostility and animosity [toward immigrants] just sickens me."
In addition to Feeney's voice and guitar, the album also features Commander Cody, the Austin Lounge Lizards, Pat Humphries, Sandy O, and Bob Banerjee, of Corn Beef & Curry fame, lending his fiddling prowess. Feeney was especially excited about Commander Cody playing piano for "Preacher and the Slave."
"I'm a great admirer of his work and always have been. He's got one of the best left hands in the business," Feeney said.
Feeney shifts from pleased to irritated like a speed racer -- happy with the musical talent garnered for her CD one minute, demanding more R.E.S.P.E.C.T. for local music scene the next.
"One of the things that have always baffled me is why the Pittsburgh music scene is not regarded more seriously nationally. Most of the talent on this CD are local friends of mine. I've worked in Nashville and New York and I don't think you're going to find better musicians than right here in Pittsburgh," she said, adding, "Bob Crafton is incredible and so is Bob Banerjee."
"Dump the Bosses off Your Back" was written by John Brill in 1916. The CD features two more golden oldies, "Preacher and the Slave," written in 1911, and "Business News/Hallelujah, I'm a Bum," written in 1897. These three songs are relics of the Industrial Workers of the World.
"I think one of the most exciting things was being able to breathe such wonderful new life into these songs that have been sung for a hundred years," Feeney said. "I think music is a fantastic way of empowering people and giving them strength and energy. I've spent a good part of my life trying to find and write music that will empower people to resist and stand up for what's right."
We hope those aren't just the people who would have resisted to begin with.
Kate McCaffrey can be reached at 412-263-1601 or firstname.lastname@example.org.