Grant Maloy Smith's New Album 'Dust Bowl - American Stories' Celebrates the Nation's Resilience
Drought, poverty and dirt defined America's southern plains in the 1930s. Folks who depended on the land for survival were devastated by monstrous clouds of dust that swept across the region between 1932 and 1940, killing crops and livestock. Already reeling from the worst economic disaster of the early 20th century, residents, primarily of Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas, found themselves facing an environmental disaster of epic proportions.
Roots singer/songwriter Grant Maloy Smith reflects on their experiences with his new album "Dust Bowl - American Stories" (Suburban Cowboy Records). With 13 tracks, the album tells personal stories about enduring love, lost love, leaving home and, in some cases, staying home and fighting to survive. Some ballads are sadly beautiful, while others are as gritty as the Dust Bowl itself, and others uplifting.
"There were many factors that led to the Dust Bowl, but a seemingly-endless drought combined with over-farming and poor land management stressed the earth and contributed to one of the worst natural disasters of the 20th century," Smith said. "Those same topics resonate today. My album is a cautionary tale, but it's also about the triumph of the human spirit in the face of great adversity."
The signature song, "Old Black Roller," derives its title from the nickname given to sky-high walls of choking dust. Like an approaching storm, the song begins slowly and builds to a crescendo. A more rocking version returns at the end of the album, as if to warn the listener that Mother Nature isn't finished yet.
The first single from Smith's album being released to radio, "I Come From America," celebrates the diversity and strength of farm families forced to flee their homes, many of them relocating to California. ("We're the desperate and unwanted, We're the strangers from the shanty side of town, Do my eyes look proud but haunted? That's the destiny in me, That's the Texas that you see.")
Check out the music video below!
The song "Isht a Lhampko" (Choctaw for "Have Strength") is about the Dust Bowl as seen through the eyes of Native Americans, who had already survived tragedies more horrible than dust storms. ("Fire has cooked our rabbits, And lit our sky for years, We will not be beaten, We walked the trail of tears.")
"The Choctaws were the first tribe to be marched at gunpoint out of Louisiana and Mississippi by the U.S. army, into what was considered to be the 'useless' plains, a century before the Dust Bowl," Smith said. "The Choctaw Cultural Center in Oklahoma helped me to make sure the song was correct and represented their culture, so I am very proud of it."
Other songs on the album tell more personal stories about leaving loved ones behind, or being abandoned. The sadly sweet "Lily of the Valley" is sung from the perspective of a boy too young to understand why his girlfriend suddenly went away, when her Grandpa "packed her up and moved her back to Tennessee."
"Dust Bowl - American Stories" features music by extraordinary artists including Bill Wittman, Cathy Clasper, George Correia, Gareth Laffely, Jeff Taylor, Ken Thomas, Lorenza Ponce, Mike Johnson, Peter Janson, Rob Ickes, Rocio Marron, Scott Vestal, Steve Stokes, Skoota Warner, Tim Lorsch, Tommy Mandel, Troy Klontz and Wouter Kellerman. Background vocals are provided by Katie Perkins, Dorie Pride and Jessica Zeltzer.
Smith shares producing credit on "Dust Bowl - American Stories" with Jeff Silverman of Palette Music Studio Productions in Mount Juliette, Tennessee, has previously worked with Rick Springfield, The Allman Brothers, Boyz II Men, George Clinton, Paula Abdul and other prominent artists.
"Dust Bowl - American Stories" is available on iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby and elsewhere. For more information, visit www.Grant-Maloy-Smith.com.
Grant Maloy Smith's upcoming appearances include:
June 3 - PVD Fest, Providence, RI
June 7 - The Fillin' Station, Kingston Springs, TN
June 8 - The Stillery, Nashville, TN
June 10 - Cookson Jubilee, Cookson, OK
June 17 - Mocha Maya's, Shelburne Falls, MA
June 22 - Rockwood Music Hall, New York, NY
June 28 - Epicure Café, Fairfax, VA
July 17 - WDVX Blue Plate Special, Knoxville, TN
July 25-29 - Fringe Fest, Kansas City, MO
August 12 - Centennial Rodeo Opry, Oklahoma City, OK