The Long Ryders

State of Our Union

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The Long Ryders kicked off their major label debut, State of Our Union, with one of their most anthemic and most explicitly political songs, "Looking for Lewis and Clark," and that tune set the tone for the rest of the album -- State of Our Union found the Long Ryders reaching for a larger audience at the same time that they were using their music to say a great deal more than they had in the past. Musically, plenty of roadwork had tightened the band's interplay to an even finer point than on Native Sons (Sid Griffin and Stephen McCarthy were both in superb voice, and their guitar work meshed perfectly), and Will Birch's production gave the songs a poppier sheen that still allowed the band's roots-conscious sound to shine through. Lyrically, State of Our Union took a long look at Reagan-era America as the gulf between the rich and the poor began to divide the nation, with "You Can't Ride the Boxcars Anymore," "Two Kinds of Love," and "Good Times Tomorrow, Hard Times Today" all exploring issues of economic injustice, and even the less obvious political songs often having a progressive subtext ("WDIA," a tribute to the great Memphis R&B radio station, deals with how the love of music brought together black and white listeners in the 1960s). 10-5-60 and Native Sons had already made it clear that the Long Ryders knew how to make great rock & roll, but State of Our Union suggested they had a lot else on their minds, and they were able to air their concerns while playing music that could move the masses...assuming that the masses ever heard them. (Ironically, a large portion of the audience for this very American album was in England, where the Long Ryders had become press favorites, and "Looking for Lewis and Clark" became a hit single.) [A deluxe edition, with bonus tracks, was issued in the mid-'90s by Griffin's label, Prima Records.]

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