Jobless Men Keep Going
Roosevelt Bandwagon describe themselves as an “Anglo-Canadian Americana collective”, have a changeable lineup and a policy of deliberate anonymity regarding individual band members. London-based, they have emerged to perform only the odd gig or festival – and that is a desperate shame, because this album is one of the most accomplished and most beautiful collections of songs you are likely to hear this year.
The album’s title comes from a classic photo from the Depression era, which fits in perfectly with an album of songs describing battles with homelessness, loneliness and restlessness. There are 10 original tracks – all described as written by Roosevelt Bandwagon; the only name checks are for guest co-writers, Josh Scutella and Buddy Mondlock – followed by two live performances. The songs are the stars of this album, and the acoustic instrumentation is generally low-key, though clearly quality.
The outstanding song sounds like a Depression-era anthem, but there are references within it to a much more recent financial crisis. “Seven Years of Plenty” combines a melody that will haunt you for a long time with a tale of prosperity fallen into poverty. The song is backed only by acoustic guitar, with perfect vocal harmonies on the chorus. It’s an astonishingly beautiful song.
In spite of the band’s London location, the songs on Jobless Men Keep Going are unashamedly North American in tone and content, evoking a wider geography than any available on this island. Most of the tracks, though, are ultimately songs of the universal human condition, exemplified by “Crooked Scars” – co-written by Mondlock: We all know, life leaves such crooked scars, don’t it? Spend half your time trying like hell not to show it.
There are few if any happy songs on this album, but the album will certainly make its listeners happy. Though they pop up at the odd festival, Roosevelt Bandwagon have only one future gig announced – at the Troubadour in Earls Court, London, on June 23. Everyone within reasonable distance should be clamouring for tickets.