Dropkick Murphys pay homage to Woody Guthrie with second acoustic album, ‘Okemah Rising’

Dropkick Murphys pay homage to Woody Guthrie with second acoustic album, ‘Okemah Rising’

Dropkick Murphys is such a unique and great punk rock band that whenever I have the opportunity to review a new Murphys’ song, album or concert, I drop what I am doing and jump at the chance. The blending of traditional Irish folk music with old-school punk rock creates a distinct and recognizable sound that sets them apart from other punk bands. This fusion of styles creates a high-energy, upbeat sound that is infectious and entertaining. Dropkick Murphys willingness to step outside the norm and create something new is as punk as it gets. I am 100% here for it.

Another factor that makes Dropkick Murphys stand out is their socially conscious lyrics. The band has showcased an unwavering conviction and courage to speak their minds even in the face of protest and naysayers. Their songs often tackle issues such as labor rights, social justice and anti-war sentiments, which adds a depth and meaning to their music beyond just being catchy tunes. They do not shy away from sharing their views in the music, in interviews and live on stage.

It is this combination of stylings and creeds that make them the perfect band to bring the socially conscious and protest words of the late, great Woody Guthrie to life as new Murphys’ songs.

Last year, I had the chance to review their first acoustic album of Guthrie inspired songs, This Machine Still Kills Fascists. This brilliant album was generally well received, however, there were those who just didn’t get it. Sadly, that was their loss. Some complained that the songs were too much of a departure from what they expected from the boys in the Murphys, claiming it wasn’t punk enough or Irish enough. Let’s be clear about this one more time. Woody Guthrie was as punk as fuck! You can’t argue that. In fact, Woody Guthrie is often considered the “original punk rocker” because of his rebellious spirit, his dedication to social justice and his influential impact on music. Guthrie was a prolific songwriter and musician who wrote many of his songs during the 1930s and 1940s, a time of great social upheaval in the United States.

Guthrie’s music was characterized by its simple, direct lyrics and its strong political messages. He wrote about the struggles of the working class, the plight of migrant workers and the injustices of racial discrimination. His music was a powerful tool for expressing dissent and promoting social change. In addition to his music, Guthrie was also known for his outspoken personality and his willingness to challenge authority. He was a vocal critic of the status quo and was unafraid to speak out against injustice, even when it put him in danger. We see these attributes within Dropkick Muphys as well. Regardless of the listener’s preference for the heavy punk rock sound that is Dropkick Murphys, the majesty created in conjunction with Woody Guthrie’s legacy is so completely perfect and so incredibly punk rock.

Despite wholeheartedly disagreeing with that outlook, I can understand the concerns over the lack of Irish stylings. There were many songs that were in fact a musical departure from the expected Irish beats and melodies the Murphys are so well known for. But Dropkick Murphys are back with their second and final acoustic album featuring the words of Guthrie, and this time, not only is it punk at its heart, but the Irish stylings also come across openly, obviously and thankfully. Once again, Dropkick Murphys show us that they are a true talent, capable of far more than simple power chords with electric guitars and distortion pedals.

The upcoming Dropkick Murphys acoustic album, Okemah Rising (an homage to Guthrie’s hometown in Oklahoma), is another excellent showcase of the band’s versatility and musicianship. At the same time, it encompasses the words of one of the original punk rockers which help express the Murphys’ own social and political views. While the band is known for their high-energy punk rock sound, this second acoustic album once again highlights their ability to craft beautiful, stripped-down arrangements that still pack an emotional punch with a message.

The first song on the album, “My Eyes Are Gonna Shine”, is a catchy and upbeat traditional Irish folk song that celebrates the power of positive thinking and the ability to see the good in everything. The song’s optimistic message is driven home by the energetic melodies that evoke the joy and excitement of an Irish celebration. The lyrics encourage listeners to keep their heads up, to keep believing in themselves and to never give up, even in the face of adversity. With its catchy melody and uplifting message, “My Eyes Are Gonna Shine” is the perfect song to lift your spirits and keep you moving forward. It’s the rally cry we have come to expect from the iconic Guthrie and the Murphys.

The second song offering, “Gotta Get to Peekskill” featuring the Violent Femmes, is a powerful and inspiring song that captures the urgency and importance of political activism. The song tells the story of a protester who is determined to make his way to Peekskill, despite the obstacles and dangers that await him.

Combining the Dropkick Murphys and Violent Femmes’ punk rock sensibility adds an edge to the upbeat Irish folk melody, perfectly capturing the urgency and intensity of the message.

The lyrics tell of the thugs, goons and KKK members that are looking to stir up trouble, but the protesters are determined to stand up for what is right and make their voices heard.

The chorus, “Gotta get to Peekskill or die trying,” is a powerful rally- cry that reminds us of the sacrifices that have been made in the struggle for civil rights, workers’ rights and social justice. It is a call to action that encourages us to stand up for what we believe in, even in the face of adversity.

Overall, “Gotta Get to Peekskill” is a fantastic collaboration between the band and Violent Femmes that captures the spirit of resistance and determination and Guthrie’s heart. It’s a song that should inspire you to stand up for what is right and fight for change.

The next song on the album, “Watchin the World Go By”, is a poignant and evocative song that captures the spirit of the itinerant workers and travelers of the past, especially during the Dust Bowl and Depression eras. The upbeat Irish folk melody is reminiscent of classic mellow tunes by the Pogues and Saw Doctors. It perfectly captures the sense of adventure and freedom combined with the desperation and loneliness that comes with traveling the rails and highways.

The lyrics tell the story of a wanderer who is riding the rails and sleeping in boxcars, watching the world go by as he travels from place to place looking for work and place to belong. The song is a tribute to the spirit of the itinerant worker, who was willing to work hard and endure hardship to find the next opportunity.

The imagery of the song is powerful and evocative, painting a vivid picture of the traveler’s life. The reference to the Depression era adds a sense of historical context, reminding us of the struggles and hardships that many people faced during that time and only helps to highlight what more and more people are experiencing today.

Overall, “Watchin the World Go By” is a beautiful and haunting song that celebrates the spirit of the itinerant worker and the traveler. It’s a reminder that sometimes the greatest adventures and the most meaningful experiences can be found when we are on the move and watching the world go by.

Next up, “I Know How It Feels”, is a powerful and inspiring song that captures the struggles of the working class and the importance of standing up for what is right. The fast, upbeat Irish reel perfectly captures the sense of urgency and determination that is needed to bring about change. The lyrics tell the story of a person who has been through hard times – being alone, having nothing, being indentured, and having what little they had taken away from them. The song speaks to the pain of working hard and still not being able to pay the bills or move up in the world.

But the song also offers hope, with its message of solidarity and standing up for what’s right. The reference to joining a union and joining the fight is a powerful reminder that change is possible when we come together and fight for our rights collectively and don’t let the powers that be divide us against ourselves.

The use of the Irish reel adds a sense of tradition and history to the song, reminding us of the struggles that many people have faced throughout history. It’s a call to action that encourages us to stand up for ourselves and fight back against injustice.

Overall, “I Know How It Feels” is a stirring and inspiring song that celebrates the resilience and determination of the working class. It’s a reminder that we can make a difference when we come together and fight for what’s right.

The next tune on the album, “Rippin Up The Boundary Line”, is an energetic song that features the powerful vocals and country stylings of Jesse Ahern who accompanied the boys in the Murphys during their acoustic tour last year. The song is a call to action, urging listeners to break down the barriers that separate the rich from the poor, and to fight against the forces that prevent the growth of a strong and vibrant working class.

The lyrics are a powerful indictment of the corporate and political forces that seek to maintain the status quo, and the song encourages listeners to stand up and fight back against these oppressive forces. The slide guitar solo in the middle of the song is a departure from the Murphys’ usual sound, but it fits perfectly with the country-infused feel of the song. Jesse Ahern’s vocals are a standout feature of the song, bringing a sense of urgency and passion to the lyrics.

Overall, “Rippin Up the Boundary Line” is a powerful and inspiring song that encourages listeners to stand up and fight for what’s right.

With its country-infused sound and powerful vocals, the song is a testament to the power of music to inspire change and unite people around a common cause.

Next up, “Hear the Curfew Blowin”, is a haunting and intense song that captures the fear and desperation of those who are oppressed and hunted by the authorities. The dark and ominous tones of the song, along with the howling wolf and blowing whistle, create a sense of foreboding and danger.

The lyrics tell the story of someone who is being chased by the authorities and trying to outrun them to avoid being strung up from the gallows. The song speaks to the injustice of a system that punishes people simply for being born into a different race, class, social status or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The country and western-inspired sound of the song adds to its haunting and powerful feel. The twang of the guitar and the mournful harmonica only add to the sense of danger and desperation.

Overall, “Hear the Curfew Blowin” is a powerful and haunting song that speaks to the injustice and oppression that many people face. With its dark and ominous tones and powerful lyrics, the song is a reminder that we must stand up and fight against those who seek to oppress us, and that we must never give up in the face of adversity.

The next song on the album is my favorite. For those who frequent a traditional Irish pub with great music, or are fans of Irish pub music, you will find the song familiar with its theme and story twist. “Bring It Home”, featuring the incredibly talented Jaime Wyatt, is an upbeat, fast-paced Irish-inspired song with a surprise twist. Wyatt is an incredibly talented country musician who also accompanied the fellas on their acoustic tour last year. The song features a lively rhythm and entertaining lyrics that are sure to put a smile on your face.

The story told in the song is about a man who stops by his female neighbor’s house each night on his way home from work and then returns home to his wife in the early morning following his tryst. The husband repeatedly tells his wife about being impressed with the neighbor’s electrical appliances, and even goes out and buys the same appliances for his wife, an act of undercover attrition.

As the song progresses, the man spends more nights with his mistress and brings home more appliances to appease his wife. However, the song takes a surprising twist when the cheating man finds a letter left by his wife on the door expressing the same story he had been sharing while having his tryst. He soon discovers that his wife was aware of his infidelity and was leaving him for her own new path and relationship, while telling the husband to enjoy the appliances.

Despite the theme, “Bring It Home” remains an upbeat and enjoyable song that captures the spirit of Irish folk music. The vocal stylings added by Wyatt and the catchy melody make this song a standout track on the album.

Next up is another of my favorite tracks on the album. “When I Was a Little Boy” is a traditional Irish song that tells the story of a father passing down his wisdom and life experiences to his son. The song speaks to the struggles of growing up in poverty and the importance of fighting to survive.

The lyrics are a powerful reminder of the resilience and strength of the human spirit, even in the face of adversity. The father’s advice to his son is to never give up, to fight for what he believes in, and to stand up for his rights.

The traditional Irish sound of the song, with its lively fiddle and accordion accompaniment, adds to the sense of resilience and perseverance that the song conveys.

The upbeat tempo and lively melody also give the song a sense of hope and optimism, despite the hardships that life often brings. Overall, “When I Was a Little Boy” is a great song that speaks to the resilience and strength of the human spirit while growing up.

The track, “Run Hitler Run”, is an energetic and powerful country rock song that captures the spirit of the fight against fascism during World War II. The song is a total hype song that could have easily been used in a Kapra-like effort to pump up soldiers and volunteers to take on Hitler and the fascists.

The lyrics are a call to arms at the time, urging people to come together and fight for the common good of ridding the world of fascism. The song speaks to the unity and determination of people during this time, as they put aside their differences and coalesced around a common cause. Furthermore, the harmonica stylings add to the sense of urgency and energy of the song, giving it a powerful and driving rhythm that keeps you engaged from start to finish.

“Run Hitler Run” is an inspiring and uplifting song that captures the spirit of the fight against fascism during World War II. With its powerful lyrics and energetic country rock sound, the song is a reminder of the importance of standing up for what is right and fighting for the common good, especially in these times when fascism is raising its ugly head once again around the world.

The final song on the album is a reworked version of a classic Murphys’ fan favorite. Frontman, Ken Casey reveals, “Many people never realized that the lyrics for ‘I’m Shipping Up to Boston’ were written by Woody Guthrie, so we felt it important to include the song on this project and give it a proper home among the rest of our collaborations with his lyrics. We knew we needed to add some twists and turns to make this version special and fitting for this collection, so we gave it the Tulsa treatment.”

The acoustic version of “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” by Dropkick Murphys is an absolute gem and stand out on the album. Stripped down to its core, the song retains all of its raw energy and punk rock spirit, but with an added layer of intimacy and warmth that only an acoustic performance can provide. The acoustic strums and riffs are perfectly in sync, giving the song an organic and natural feel that is both raw and refined. The vocals are passionate and powerful, delivering the song’s lyrics with an honesty and authenticity that is truly captivating.

Without the electric guitars and heavy drums, the song’s catchy melody and driving rhythm shine through even more brightly, making it impossible to resist tapping your feet and nodding your head to the beat. Dropkick Murphys prove once again that they are true masters of their craft, delivering a song that is both flawless and full of heart and true to the original while completely new.

Overall, the acoustic version of “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” is a must-listen for any fan of Dropkick Murphys or punk rock in general. It showcases the band’s incredible talent and versatility, while also highlighting the enduring power and appeal of this timeless classic.

Overall, Dropkick Murphys second acoustic album, Okemah Rising, is a testament to the band’s creativity and talent. It’s a refreshing departure from their typical sound, but still feels like an authentic representation of the band. It’s a must-listen for fans of the band and anyone who appreciates heartfelt acoustic Irish protest music.

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Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.

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