I haven’t heard from Sam Draisey since I reviewed his impressive album, As I Live And Breathe back in 2017. He’s not been idle, though, and one or two things have changed – he’s not the fresh-faced young chap he was back then; a look that belied the intensity of his music. Red vs Blue is an eighteen-track double album with as Sam says, no front and no back as far as its covers are concerned. The odd thing is that his looks still belie his music; you might expect him to be spitting vitriol but these songs are clever, witty and readily accessible.
The first track on the “red” disc is ‘I Don’t Really Look Like A Punk’. Sam says that the two halves of the album are mirror images of each other, by the way, and the record is more about what unites us as a people than what divides us. Anyway: “I don’t have tattoos ‘cos I’m too indecisive / And my Dad brought me up to hate spending money” After listing some more of his virtues and concluding that his parents are pretty punk, too, because “Punk is anti-racist / punk is anti-fascist”. As a position paper for the album, it’s a damn good song, and I agree with all it – except that I’m of Sam’s parents’ generation, not his. ‘Get On Your Fucking Bike’ follows that and it’s not what you think it might be. Rather, it’s a plea for ecological sanity.
Sam’s band includes his regular sidesmen, Daniel Hart on guitar and Dickie Davis on drums, with the addition of Ewan Stevens and John Hare who provide extra melodic decoration. The words are important and the musicians back and support without getting in the way.
Sam uses ‘Pauper’s Grave’ and ‘True Worth’ to point up the divide between rich and poor with a hint of ‘Bury Me Naked’ in the former. He’s preaching to the choir, of course, but it does no harm. There’s self-deprecation in ‘Principle’ even while he defends his musical stance – a wonderfully understated song. ‘Who’s To Blame’ gives the band a work-out while ‘Question Everything’ takes that sage advice and looks backwards to his childhood and forwards to a potential future in a gentle acoustic song. ‘The Play-Doh Song’ is a delightful side-bar but Sam does nothing without a purpose as you’ll discover while ‘Home’ is ostensibly an exercise in nostalgia but, again, it hides a deeper purpose.
The “blue” disc opens with ‘Who We Are’ which provides the album’s title and reinforces the messages of some of the “red” songs and, although it seems to look at both ends of the political spectrum it concludes that “we all know who we are”. ‘Where’s The Border Anyway’ takes aim at governments on both sides of the pond and it’s clear that, despite his protestations of even-handedness, Sam definitely comes down hard on “them” – funny how they seem to be on the “blue” half of the album. That said, he (mostly) contains the vitriol very well and the songs will send you away with something to think about. ‘By Any Other Name’ and ‘Send Them Back’ aren’t any too gentle but the word-play of ‘It’s More Important To Do Right Than To Be Right’ makes its point without shouting the odds. As for ‘The Tax Avoider’s Song’ – do I need to say any more? Finally, ‘Eulogy’ is just that but there is a deliberate ambiguity about it. I know what I think but I will leave you to decide for yourselves.
You may have concluded that I like Red Vs Blue and you’d be right. There is an old-fashioned feeling about protest songs and Sam is rightly unashamed about being a protest singer. When we get folk-clubs back I’d love to hear one or two of these songs slipped into a set but, as Sam points out, what he does really isn’t fashionable.
Artist’s website: http://www.samdraisey.com/
This song isn’t from Red Vs Blue but it makes a good companion piece. This is ‘Where We Came From’:
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