Joe Solo

A quick word of warning before we get into the meat (or vegetarian alternative) of the review, that if you believe that politics has no place in music, then it is time to move swiftly on as we get to an album that hits as hard as the title suggests.

For anyone unfamiliar with Joe Solo, music is very much the medium for his message – which is largely one of social concern and the need for social justice. Armed with a guitar and a harmonica, he is on a mission to represent the unrepresented and forgotten and he doesn’t care who gets in the way.

Musically, he has his origins in punk, though to call this punk-folk overlooks some of his more reflective moments and there are sufficient here to draw attention to – though it is his sheer energy and a voice that resounds with anger, commitment and concern that defines both this album and his overall raison d’etre – proceeds from this album, associated merchandise and gigs are donated to worthy causes – and at the time of writing have raised a hefty sum.

For those who like their musical benchmarks, think, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Billy Bragg blended with The Clash (always The Clash) and Stiff Little Fingers – both of whom are name checked within his less political songs – most of which reference to power of music to change lives – singly or collectively - and have an often autobiographical feel to them. There’s even room for a wry nod to Bryan Adams – it’s not all serious stuff you know.

Along with the variety of moods on the album, there are also contributions from some fellow travellers – the Commoner’s Choir put in a welcome appearance, as does The Hatfield Main, a community choir based around an ex-mining community and used to great effect on The Last Miner. As the song progresses and the emphasis shifts from the past through the current day to the future, so the accompanying voices change from those of the adult choir to the children as the emphasis shifts from previous events to the continuing heritage of the pits and the bond with the locale.

Alongside the contribution of massed ranks, there are also notable individual collaborations – with longtime and occasional musical partner Rebekah Findlay offering some finely sympathetic fiddle and fast rising singer songwriter Jess Silk, who can match Joe for both levels of activity and vocal venom – they make a fine pairing.

Joe Solo – washing machine repair man by day – activist singer at every other available opportunity, writer and deliverer of protest songs, punch the air choruses and an ongoing commitment to comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable – an album and a performer not for the faint of heart, and as you might expect, providing good value for money – with 15 tracks on the CD!

Visit Joe Solo's website



Listen on Spotify