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Fruit Tramp Ballads of the Great Northwest

by: Dave McGrew

Album Artwork

Dave McGrew’s Fruit Tramp Ballads of the Great Northwest preserves a testimony to those hardworking folks who may never experience the elusive “American Dream”. Taj Mahal (bass, mandolin, harp), Cool John Ferguson (guitar, piano), and Tim Duffy assist gravel-voiced McGrew on this subtle mood album. This combination of musicians provides an interesting duality between the smooth jazz influences from Mahal and Ferguson mixed with McGrew’s raw folkiness. One cannot help but hear a Woody Guthrie thread in McGrew’s songs.

These thirteen compositions paint stories of a hard-ass life of fruit picking, dirt roads, poverty, and traveling told by a cold blue poet, like a modern day musical chapter from The Grapes of Wrath. Lyrics on the song “Somewhere Out of Here” provide a glimpse into a world many Americans see:

If I could just pick one more box
I could buy the kids a pair of socks
Though tomorrow you know I’ll be in pain
Another crop another year
I’ll be getting out of here
Watching the view from my rear view mirror
If it’s a good year, I’m gonna make me some
If not I’m sticking out my thumb
To another crop somewhere out of here

Smelling the tractor fumes and the spray dope
Smelling the barbecue and the pot smoke
Smelling the beer from yesterday
Smelling the freshness of a summer morn
Smelling the fruit rotting on the ground
Just thinking oh what a waste

“What Does it Mean” reveals more sad truths across the land:
Hey try to raise a family when you haven’t got a job
Go to the food banks you always see a mob
Living in your soup lines living from your car
Living on the outside looking out of a jar

Hey it seems like the small time farmer is coming to the past,
All the small time businesses are folding up real fast
The rich is getting richer and the poor gaining mass
Just like before Boston we’re living in the past

“Sweet Valentine” could pass for a top-ten hit on any Country music radio station. Tim Duffy spoke about his old friend McGrew: “Well, Dave McGrew and Cool Johnson Ferguson lived together for a year. They were both helping me build up Music Maker. Dave’s been bouncing back and forth from the West Coast since 1988. He works out there picking fruit, and in the off season he comes down and hangs out with us. His lyrics are great, and there’s a tremendous loneliness on Tramp Ballads. Taj Mahal took Dave’s music to many people including Emmylou Harris telling them this is the real roots music; you’ve got to listen to this. Taj was pitching Emmylou Dave’s songs. Dave’s the real deal.”

Dan Duffy’s liner notes provide a revealing glimpse into the heart and journey of this great, unknown musician. This album shall inspire any hard-working family man to remain steadfast in his daily grind. Dave McGrew sings for the salt of the earth.

- James Calemine

related tags

North Carolina,
Lore,
Music,
Mystery and Manners,

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