Welcome to Labor Land
Village Records, October, 2002 Labor songs with twang, surf, honky tonk & blues. Perfect gift for your boss, if you have another gig lined-up! Union News, by Mike Matejka Halker, a lively musician with a strong band, brings a country-rock sensibility to traditional tunes, revitalizing them. Country Music, Switzerland, December 2002 A masterpiece, valuable, noteworthy, done with great skill and emotion; reminds one of Steve Earle or Springsteen; honest and direct. From the Artist: 'I knew there were hundreds of working-class songs and poems from Illinois dating back to the mid-19th century. I'd seen a lot of 'em when I wrote my book on 19th century labor protest songs and poetry for the University of Illinois Press (1991). And, I'd been performing some of 'em around the country and in Europe over the last decade. When I finished my last CD, Don't Want Your Millions, a collection of labor protest songs from throughout the USA, I thought I might just take on a similar project for Illinois. The band seemed up for it and the AFL-CIO liked the idea of documenting the rich heritage of worker music and poetry in Illinois. The trick was to make the arrangements interesting and I think we did that! I was tired of hearing labor songs done in the same old folk revival style of the 1950s. Yeah, I wanted some of 'em done folky, 'cause they sound good that way. But some of 'em needed to be injected with new musical blood. Well, we sure did that. Tom Paxton they ain't. Turn on the Victrola and let it rip.' About the Artist: Bucky Halker was born on the shores of Lake Superior in a worn-down iron ore and lumbering town. Since leaving his hometown at 18 he's done a lot of everything! A veteran songwriter, guitarist, and frontman, he has a dozen recordings to his credit, most of which feature original songs. His two most recent CDs, Don't Want Your Millions and Welcome to Labor Land, however, feature his interpretations of working-class labor protest songs. Deeply grounded in the history of American music, Halker's music has always drawn heavily from folk, blues, bluegrass, R&B, country, roots rock, rockabilly, and honky tonk. That he gets lumped in the Alt Country/Americana category is amusing. He's been doing that kind of music for thirty years! Halker regularly tours Europe as a soloist and with his band, the Complete Unknowns. Three of his CDs have been released in Europe on Brambus Records. A historian with considerable credentials, he has a PhD in US history and has published extensively on labor music, pop music, and working-class history. His book, For Democracy, Workers and God: Labor Song-Poems and Labor Protest was published by the University of Illinois Press in 1991. He currently lives in Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan. Album Description: Welcome to Labor Land features Bucky Halker and the Complete Unknowns doing their renditions of 14 labor protest songs from Illinois. These songs were written between 1865 and 1955 by coal miners, musicians, railroaders, construction laborers, printers, and other working-class bards. Most have never been recorded before. Some are based on worker poems for which Halker wrote music. The CD also features Halker's versions of songs by lesser known Illinois bluesmen Peetie Wheatstraw, JB Lenoir, and Floyd Jones. And, there's a version of Woody Guthrie 'Dying Miner', which Guthrie wrote while stationed in the military in Illinois after WWII. Halker and the band borrow heavily from folk, rockabilly, honky tonk, country, blues, and root rock. Lots of twang here! This is an important historic documentation of working-class music. In fact, much of the funding for this project came from the AFL-CIO. This is real folk music!