Dan Bern

My Country II

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Folkie Dan Bern subtitling his My Country II "Music to beat Bush by" places him firmly to the left in the debate surrounding the 2004 presidential election. But Bern is a strong songwriter, and he emphasizes My Country II's music over its message. He's definitely not a fan of 43, but there's more on Bern's mind than regime change. Dylan meets Costello in the bashed-out sonics of "Tyranny," and the track's world-weariness comes from issues larger than one administration. Likewise, "After the Parade" is an everysoldier's lament, suggestive of Eric Bogle's powerfully sad "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda." These tracks are certainly relevant to My Country's central theme. But they make the album about more than just one man, even if Bern saves his real ire for Mr. Bush. "President" is a funny folk ramble personifying W's first 100 days, while the title track takes issue with conservatives' demonizing of dissenting opinion. Best might be the decidedly unsubtle "Bush Must Be Defeated." His acoustic guitar twining over downcast electronic percussion, Bern rhymes about 4,000 things with the word "defeated," and they're all bad for the President. Example: "Bush must be defeated/His goodbye coffee heated/His White House bed short-sheeted/The imposer excreted." For those who share Bern's sentiment, My Country II will be a rallying cry. But it's also a testament to his skill as a singer and songwriter that the album stays the course, offering music, and not just message.

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