Various Artists

Work's Many Voices, Vol. 1

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There are loads of compilation albums, of course, and this one doesn't exactly put its foot through the door upon a quick examination. The black-and-white graphics, consisting mostly of text, couldn't be more appealing. And considering the many themes compilations dedicate themselves to, this one might only seem to be of interest to workaholics, or someone whose job is causing them to hear voices. Actually, however, this is a collection of really interesting tracks that one might have difficulty finding elsewhere one by one, let alone jam-packed together, 16 in total over two sides. The common theme is work, which usually means complaining about work if the singer has any interest in maintaining an audience's attention. These anthologies are not going to be only of interest to fans of one particular genre, which perhaps is a problem in terms of the volumes reaching any audience at all, but will give the sets additional appeal to listeners with diverse tastes. For blues fans, the great moment here is going to be hearing a track by Big Boy Henry, a fine blues artist from the North Carolina coast whose recorded output is so skinny it would be sent back to the kitchen if it were served with a catfish sandwich. The fact that his song is an open letter to Ronald Reagan just makes it better. The program also includes Cajun, Tex-Mex, rock & roll, folk songs, country & western, R&B, and bluegrass. There are tracks from Newfoundland, Arizona, Chicago, Georgia, Nashville, and Sauk City, WI, among other hotbeds of civilization. Jobs that are griped about include pipe fitting, prostitution, mining, backhoe operating, heavy machine operating, sailors, meat cutters, and sawmill men, to create an incomplete list. All the artists are fairly obscure, and the Tommy Roe who wrote "Working Class Hero," which finishes out the set, shouldn't ring any bells either. It isn't the same guy who did bubblegum pop, and it isn't the John Lennon song, either. Some of the tracks are simply interesting from a political perspective, such as Michael McGeary's "Buy American," or present decent work by performers who are simply too unusual to have had major performing careers. Charlie Frederick, for example, was a combination of a country songwriter and an environmental scientist, and created a gripping song story, "Twenty-Nine More Men."

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