So, here it is. There very first words written about the very first music I have released under my own name. The author is Devon Leger and its from his "5 Artists to Discover at Folk Alliance" blog posting at his popular Kithfolk Blog. (Look for a full interview in a future issue of his Kithfolk Quarterly Roots Music Magazine.)
Mark Rubin is another uncompromising voice in American roots music. An endlessly curious musical explorer, it would be impossible to catalogue all the bands he's been a part of and all the American musical traditions he can basically call his own. He's well known for his work in The Bad Livers, an early punk-grass band that paved the way for a lot of underground roots music to this day. He's also well known now for his brutally honest voice on the scene, calling bullshit on hypocrisy in the folk scene. At Folk Alliance, he'll be running their extensive music camp, so I don't think he'll actually be performing that much, which is why he gets bonus mention here. Mark's releasing a new solo album in 2015, Southern Discomfort, and it is a brutal and unflinching, but ultimately fascinating and deserved, look at American culture today through the prism of American roots music. A few songs come over from Mark's fabulous and under-rated earlier band The Atomic Duo (a bitter ode to rental warfare and classism with "Key Chain Blues" and a pure genius cover of Gil Scott Heron's "Whitey's On the Moon" as a jug band song), but the rest are new.
The most brutal song is "The Murder of Leo Frank", a murder ballad written in the old broadside style that chronicles the horrific mob lynching in 1915 of Northern Jewish factory superintendent Leo Frank in Georgia. You can read the details on Wikipedia, but the gist is that Frank's murder casts a light on the bitter reality of anti-semitism in the 20th century. Aside from the topical nature of much of Mark's songwriting, there are songs here that are just great fun. "Seriously (Too Much Weed)" is a ridiculously big band jass romp through weed lovin' and kudos for the sweet and charming "Don't Wake Up Jesse Lege" about touring with great older masters like Cajun accordionist Lege. Mark's a great writer aside from his songwriting, and I recommend his blog for interesting asides and opinions. Any way you cut it, Mark's voice cuts deep but is necessary in a roots music industry that's become increasingly complacent and self-congratulatory. Ignore him at your peril.