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Published: 2005/06/02
by Karl Kukta

God, Guns, and Money – Brian Stoltz


War (music). What is it good for? The jingoists in Nashville, clearly. funky Meters' guitarist Brian Stoltz, too, seems to think that there is an audience for the malcontents in our country, and on God Guns and Money he makes clear his loathing of the "chicken hawks" in both the White House and the public sector over ten tracks that appropriately fuse music of the disenfranchised — namely blues, funk, folk and roots rock — to (re-)direct our attention to "the greatest armed robbery in history."

The spirit of Dylan (whom Stoltz has played and recorded with) surrounds GG&M — from lyrical parsings to pictures on Stoltz’ website showing him reading Chronicles vol. 1, from Stoltz’ vocals to the album’s production, which is of a piece with "Love and Theft". Stoltz even goes as far as to include "War Song," a track which features the same blues progressions Dylan uses on "Lonesome Day Blues." And, though it may be sacrilegious in some circles to compare anyone’s lyrics with Mr. Zimmerman, the title track (which is divided into two parts and bookends the album) deserves a place next to Dylan’s greatest protest songs — or any other American’s, for that matter. The song has a nasty rural funk groove (electric on part 1, acoustic on part 2) and is laced with incisive verses, such as the following:

God guns and money can help you pay the rent

When you're a politician and your capital is spent

Fire up the people, just scare them half to death

God guns and money your tight security net

Stoltz supplements his personal feelings about the war and our country with a few songs told from the perspective of soldiers fighting in the Middle East (albeit soldiers who would be sympathetic to the album's other tracks). This is through and through an artifact of a post-Iraqi-invasion America. Only "Still Some Sense Left in the World" avoids direct confrontation with the issues facing America today.

In his desire to tell politically persuasive stories, Stoltz occasionally overreaches, as on "War Song" when he laments, "I wish my brother had never gone to the war; I wish this war song could remain unsung," despite the fact that song fails to provide any details that point to the war experience being a detrimental one. Put this song up against Daryl Worley's "Have You Forgotten?" and there's no question as to which pulls hardest on middle America's heart-strings. In his anger and exasperation, Stoltz occasionally forgets that if you don't focus some of your time telling an emotionally charged narrative, then your message is going to be drowned out by the sentimental tripe being churned out by the other side.

God Guns and Money is at its best when it is speaking primarily through the music — as on "Downtown," when Stoltz is laying down sinuous, dirty guitar riffs over a funky backbeat. Because in order for the message to get across, it must first find a way in. Because once the groove has won over an apathetic citizen, the likelihood increases of him/her be able to hear these lyrics (and others) with new ears: "thought of going AWOL, follow my leader, to him it was no big thing; but I used my head, laid in be, dreaming of a Baghdad fling."

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