Alison Crockett - Mommy, What's a Depression? (2012)

Alison Crockett
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Alison Crockett is serious. I found that out after listening to Bare, her 2007 recording. That record included tunes such as “How Deep Is Your Love,” a song that finds her questioning not only the depth of her significant other’s devotion but also whether or not the manifestation of that love is a good or bad thing. That’s why I can’t be too surprised when Diva Blue drops an overtly political album like Mommy, What’s a Depression?

Alison Crockett is serious. I found that out after listening to Bare, her 2007 recording. That record included tunes such as “How Deep Is Your Love,” a song that finds her questioning not only the depth of her significant other’s devotion but also whether or not the manifestation of that love is a good or bad thing. That’s why I can’t be too surprised when Diva Blue drops an overtly political album like Mommy, What’s a Depression?

OK, I know that Bare is a relationship album while Mommy, What’s a Depression? addresses gentrification, immigration, war, the environment and the ever-present economic situation. Viewed in another way, Mommy, What’s a Depression? is a relationship album as well. Politics involve the relationship between the governed and the government. Crockett uses Mommy, What’s a Depression? to remind us that that relationship is pretty dysfunctional.

The record itself is a combination of Crockett originals with covers of classic jazz and Great American Songbook tunes. Crockett’s genius is managing to craft musical arrangements and a narrative that allow the originals and covers to serve her story of a working and middle class crushed by a military industrial complex and greedy bankers and real estate speculators.

The record’s first half includes funk and rock arrangements, including a funk version of the Gershwin tune “My Man’s Gone Now” from the opera Porgy and Bess. In Porgy and Bess, a woman sings the song after her man is shot and killed during a dispute over a game of craps.  The point is that at some level who lives and dies in a war appears to be as random as the roll of a dice. But then, maybe not. Crockett also employs the voices of presidents past and present to remind the listener that the rationale for going to war never really changes. We hear Lyndon B. Johnson, George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama hitting the same talking points about how nobody seems to want war, but fighting is sometimes necessary.

In that context, the funk/rock hybrid “I’ma Hustla” plays like a declaration of independence made by a widowed woman who realizes that life goes on, bills have to be paid and children need to be fed. This track, which is the best of a very strong lot, is ultimately about how we, the people cope.

“Trouble in the Lowlands” kicks off the record’s second half. Crockett’s arrangement of this Bessie Smith tune plays it pretty straight by opting to go for the blues. The song addresses how the low people living in the low lands suffered from the 2005 hurricane and the 2010 Gulf oil spill. Crockett intersperses quotes from Bush, Obama, James Carville and that “drill baby drill” chant from the 2008 Republican Convention with canned laughter. 

Crockett even manages to transform a cabaret style routine that includes the songs  “They All Laughed,” “I’ve Got the World on a String” and “It’s a Wonderful World” into a protest medley. Crockett begins the track with a monologue about the bank bailouts and how the investors, speculators politicians are laughing at workers and under water homeowners. Crockett then performs a swinging version of “They All Laughed.” A riff on how the moneyed interests convinced workers to vote against their economic interest follows a bluesy rendition of “I’ve Got the World on a String,” while a “It’s a Wonderful World” is preceded by a plea to protect the environment.

With Mommy, What’s a Depression? Crockett provides an eloquent snap shot of where our nation and world stand in 2012. Sadly, it’s not that different from where the world stood in 2008 when the last great soulful protest album – Nadir’s Working for the Man, was released. In times like these, it falls on our artists to give voice to the people’s rage, and on Mommy, What’s a Depression? Crockett proves that she is up to the task.  Highly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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