Thursday, January 31, 2008

Heartland Rock 101: Blue-Collar Blues

What do Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Bob Seger, John Cougar Mellencamp all have in common. They are identified in rock terminology as Heartland Rock.

Heartland Rock is fundamentally American music, focussed, to some degree, on blue-collar concerns, as opposed to the high brow reach of Prog or the superficiality of New Wave.

Many of it’s proponents are from the mid-west (John Mellencamp was originally into Glam but moved back to Indiana), providing a parrallel to the countrified sound of Southern Rock. While the themes of Southern rock were often booze and women Heartland Rock concerned itself with personal isolation and exclusion from the American Dream (think ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’:Bruce Springsteen, ‘Against the Wind’: Bob Seger, ‘Small Town; John Mellencamp).

It can be difficult to pinpoint the many influences on the development of Heartland Rock: Creedence Clearwater Revival were definitely significant, as was the blue-collar tradition of Woodie Guthrie and Leadbelly. At it’s heart, though, it was straight-up rock and roll blended with a keen awareness of american country, folk and rhythmn and blues.

There are many lesser known artists who deserve mention:

The brilliant John Hiatt, who’se songs have been covered by Dr Feelgood, Bonny Raitt, Iggy Pop

Steve Earl, whose songs, while strongly country, could fit into any Springsteen album (‘Guitar Town’ or ‘Copperhead Road”)

John Cafferty, unfairly derides as a Springsteen wannabe

Los Lobos, who cover many genres but have redefined Americana based on their hispanic roots

Here is Rock Revival’s Top 10 Heartland tracks

1. I Ain’t Ever Satisfied: Steve Earle
2. Thunder Road: Bruce Springsteen
3. Have a Little Faith In Me: John Hiatt
4. Night Moves: Bob Seger
5. White Line Fever: Joe Ely
6. My Girl: John Hiatt and Loudon Wainwright
7. Pink Houses: John Cougar Mellencamp
8. Free Falling: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
9. The River: Bruce Springsteen
10. C.I.T.Y: John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band
Image: Courtesy Columbia

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