Album Review

Dan Bern & the IJBC - My Country II

Dan Bern & the IJBC - My Country II

Dan Bern is the Michael Moore of folk-rock. In other words, he advances his left-wing critique of the world not by reasoned argument and carefully sifted evidence but by irreverent mockery, freewheeling speculation and razor-sharp anger. Like Moore, he's a jester not a journalist, a satirist not a senator; he's Richard Pryor, not Dan Rather. These are terrible days for most of us, but these are terrific times for a political satirist, for never has an American administration practiced hypocrisy on such a grand scale. Bern takes advantage of the situation, fantasizing about how he'd spend his first three weeks in office if he were somehow elected "President" (even less likely than Moore getting the Supreme Court's nod). On the title track, Bern celebrates both his stubborn non-conformism and his essential patriotism; on "The Torn Flag", he imagines finding old glory splattered with garbage, and he not only cleans the flag up, he gives it an overdue redesign. "Sammy's Bat" conjures up an even wilder dream: Jesus is stopped at the border, the devil grins on TV talk shows, a chariot rolls through a rain of fire, and Sammy Sosa resorts to a corked bat. Bern made his name as a hollow-guitar-strumming Ani DiFranco protege, but on last year's New American Language and this new disc, he goes Newport '65, hiring a band called the International Jewish Banking Conspiracy to give him an organ-fueled folk-rock sound. Producer/keyboardist Will Masisak provides the piano punch to "After The Parade", a song with the same resonance as the Lila Lipscomb sequence at the end of Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. In Bern's song, a veteran of the Iraq invasion asks, "Who do you think will push my chair after the parade is over?"