For a long time, political protest songs have played an important role in American folk music. The seminal Woody Guthrie wrote the book on protest songs, and after that, the political folk tradition was kept alive by everyone from Bob Dylan and Joan Baez to Phranc, Ani DiFranco, and Tracy Chapman. Folksingers don't have the market cornered on political songs; reggae, punk, and rap artists have certainly been known to fight the power. But if you were teaching a college course on the history of political music, folk artists would merit a lot of discussion. So when the documentary Out of Darkness: The Mine Workers' Story needed a soundtrack, political folk-rocker Tom Juravich was a logical person to provide one. Juravich isn't a huge name in the folk world, but those who are hip to the Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter know how compelling his work can be. This CD was recorded at Philly's legendary Sigma Sound Studios, which is to classic Philly soul what Rudy Van Gelder's studio is to hard bop. But Juravich isn't a soul artist; folk-rock is his turf, and he's an expert. Most of the songs on this album discuss the struggles of American coal miners, including Woody Guthrie's "Ludlow Massacre," Billy Edd Wheeler's "Coal Tattoo," and Juravich's vehemently pro-union "Tell the Boys at Pittson." An equally pro-union message is heard on his version of Florence Reece's "Which Side Are You On?," a gem that goes back to the '30s. Reece, whose husband was a miner's union organizer in Harlan County, KY, wrote the lyrics after some gun-toting anti-union goons surrounded her cabin. This soundtrack isn't the only Juravich release that's worth owning, but it's an excellent place to start if one is exploring his work for the first time.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson