Through the Lens

Focusing on the finest roots music photography

Amos lives in West Virginia, where he works with Mountain Stage and takes stunning photographs of live music performances.

Through the Lens

Focusing on the finest roots music photography

Amos lives in West Virginia, where he works with Mountain Stage and takes stunning photographs of live music performances.

"In a Certain Moment, the Right Song Can Start a Fire"

Absolutely fantastic column Amos!

With no where else to put it, perhaps this is the most appropriate. I protest the line in your editor's email in my box this morning about Donald Trump, which includes the line: "a brave new perspective on what must be done as Americans." Even as a hope beyond hope this seems to suggest this as a possibility, given everything we already know and all that we will soon learn. Perhaps I'm off base and he's suggesting what the people must do to overthrow this tyrant--what we must do as Americans. But with "a brave (really? brave?) new perspective" he seems to tip his hand. So that's my response as I don't have time to write a protest song about it. Oh, and great piece here, Amos.

Will, when I read that line I just assumed he meant what we must do to get rid of this Asshole-Elect but you're right in that it's rather ambiguous and it could be interpreted to mean it's Trump's "brave new perspective" which is too ugly of a thought to contemplate. I think Cameron Matthews needs to clarify what he meant.

Wish I did have time to write a protest song about it! This great article has me all fired up. Closest I ever came I guess is a song I wrote about a soldier in Nam dreaming about his land back home, a place called "Meadow Rue." In the last lines he contemplates if any indiginous peoples who had to escape the war felt the same way:

Was there ever a man from Viet Nam
Who loved as much this steamy land
Whose heart longs for its jungle trees and vines
Well I hope that he has come back home
From wherever we made him roam
Meadow Rue does your water still taste like wine. 

Nicely done Will...the old cliche is that the history books are written by the winners...I always did like a lyric that turns that perspective around to those who've been displaced and have "lost".  

It is an excellent article...again, well done Amos!

Thanks Jim. And agreed, great article on a significant idiom of my lifetime. I prefer the less "in your face" songs, those that tend to turn on the last line or stanza, such as "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," my favorite version by Johnny Rivers. 

  • Johnny Rivers...that guy covered some good songs...wrote a couple too...hadn't thought about him in a long time..."The Poor Side of Town"...

I just think his version of Flowers Gone is a bit less saccarine, it's straightforward and with soul. Golden Hits (Whisky a Go Go), Rewind, and Realization are musts imo. 


I had Realization at one point...excellent record...long time ago...thanks for the other recommends as well...

I really like Johnny Rivers and have replaced my "Realization" and other LPs with CDs. In Dylan's memoir I was surprised when he listed as one of his favorite covers of his songs being Johnny Rivers' cover of "Positively 4th Street" and it is indeed very good.

Yes JR has a way of making songs his own, and with writers such as James Hendricks and Scott Mckenzie et al. he had a wealth of great original material. Found this right here on ND: and perhaps this is the best way (in quiet protest) to go into tomorrow:

“We sailed into the sunset,
Drifted home, caught by a gulf stream
Never gave a thought for tomorrow,
Just let tomorrow be, let tomorrow be.”


Excellent review of an underappreciated singer and artist...a great record...indeed appropos for tomorrow...

Amos...your column is so well researched and succinct. Glad to see Bruce Cockburn included. Very nice work.

I, too, was happy to see Cockburn included.

Well done column Amos...very thoughtful...excellent photos too...

All I can say is... Keep On----


For the love of God. It was  a WOMEN's March (that men also attended). You could not find enough women musicians from the last 75 years to focus on for one article?? I have been a women for 64 years and could name dozens and dozens of female artists protesting their hearts out in their music. I am dumbfounded, disgusted and angry. There were millions of women in the street protesting on Jan 21st, would have been great if you honored their lives.






?....did this post just drop in from outer space or something?   This particular article mentions and pictures lots of women (Hazel Dickens, Joan Baez, Patty Smith, Anais Mitchell, and numerous others) and was written before the Women's March on Washington...seems like it may have posted in the wrong place, but maybe it's just me...

Or maybe it references the issue of ND itself...?  

I was scratching my head over that post too Jim. Perhaps she'll clarify her anger. Or perhaps this new Trumpian world has made her so angry she's not thinking straight which is understandable.

I ran across a line this weekend that seems to fit this discussion of protest songs. The conventional consensus is that Dylan stopped writing protests songs back in the 60s but that's not really true. Sometimes a great line of social commentary might jump up in the middle of an otherwise non-political song. I was reminded of this while listening to Jimmy LaFave's fine cover of Dylan's "Sweetheart Like You" form his brilliant and mostly underrated 1983 album "Infidels." This song is mostly advice from an old musician to a young woman musician warning her about the sordid music business. But he drops in this quatrain that seems a perfect comment on the Trump phenomenen: "They say patriotism is the last refuge/ to which a scoundrel clings./ Steal a little and they put you in jail;/ steal a lot and they make you king." 

I know that first sentence is a paraphrase of G.B. Shaw and the second sounds like an old folk aphorism and it should be if it isn't.

Actually, I think Shaw's best quote on patritotism is that it is "a pernicious, psychopathic form of idiocy".  With regard to the last refuge of a scoundrel being patriotism, I'd argue that these days it's the first refuge (thanks to Amborse Bierce), along with religion..."Make America Great Again"...Oscar Wilde said it is the "virtue of the vicious"...George Nathan..."Patriotism is often an arbitrary verneation of real estate above principles"...or our beloved Mencken..."When you hear a man speak of his love for his country it is a sign that he expects to be paid for it"

Infidels is underrated...

Glad it wasn't just me on the me "dazed and confused"


Thanks Jim for the great quotes on patriotism, all of which I agreed with. I had never heard of George Nathan before so Googled him and discovered he's quite quoteable: "Bad officials are the ones elected by good citizens who don't vote." (Here's looking at all you misguided, naive idealists who hated Trump but didn't vote because you found Hillary too unsavory.)

I think I'm getting paranoid. I'm starting to think expressing ourselves so openly on a public forum will soon result in a pounding on our doors by the new, secretely formed Trumpian squad come to arrest anyone who doesn't venerate the new President Asshole.

Can't promise you anything Dennis, but don't give in to paranoia...the "Alternative Facts" thing has a lot of people thinking 1984...

Yeah, I heard that "1984" is suddenly on the best seller list. I heard somewhere the quip, "1984 is supposed to be a cautionary tale--not a handbook for conduct."

I suppose it could function as a manual for someone sinister enough...

I just discovered that the quote about patriotism being the last refuge of a scoundrel wasn't a paraphrase of G.B. Shaw but of Doctor Johnson. I'm not sure where I got the notion it was from G.B. Shaw (other than it sounds like him) but it appears I've been deluded for years.

You'll notice I referenced Ambrose Bierce, another very quotable source in one of the prior posts..."Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" is Samuel Johnson response, Bierce wrote, " In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel.  With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer, I beg to submit that it is the first".  You are not deluded at all Dennis...your desire to credit the proper source is admirable...and they are great quotes!  The former does sound like something Shaw would have written...

This so reminds me of an incident that happened to me at one of my Toronto shows. That year I had more than my share of women performers. Toward the end, one woman accordian player and singer who was with one of the bands lit into me about not having any woman. I was flabbergasted. Right in front of the stage and a lot of folks who had gathered to see the excellent band of which she had been a part! Oh well. The marches over the weekend were so needed by so many of us to lift our spirits and help us feel like it's not the end. May not be P.C., but may I say I love women? Especially all those who have played my shows, so many I couldn't name them all, but from Whitney Rose to Lydia Loveless to this amazing "new" singer who sang with Brian Whelan at West this year: Nicole Eva Emery. 


Great can say whatever you want Will...since I've already trotted out the old cliche about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions, I'll not say anything else about the Toronto thing...I suppose one can never do enough to balance the scales, but keep trying...




I was a bit taken aback that there was no mention of the flood of women's music in the seventies and eighties that produced so many protest songs. Holly Near and Ronnie Gilbert spring instantly to my mind, but Bernice Reagon and Sweet Honey in the Rock gave us the songs that focused and sustained me the most deeply during those times. For me, only Bruce Cockburn equals their ability to produce a body of music that drills into the issues while speaking directly to the heart.

I'm with you, Amos! Great column. And there were certainly WOMEN in your pictures... anyway, I'm going to add a woman's protest song right here: It's my own. I put it up before going to the Women's March in D.C. on my birthday!

Anything Like Home © 2016 Julie Christensen 





And well done Julie!