Monday, February 15, 2016

American Road Trip by Chris Sand: “One Heckuva Ride”


Chris Sand (formerly Sandman The Rappin’ Cowboy) has traversed the blue highways and gravel backroads of the USA for over two decades, performing his unique blend of folk, punk, hip hop, and cowboy music in basements, living rooms, barns, performance halls, and dive bars along the way. Dubbed by Punk Planet in 2003 as “our Troubadour for the 21st Century,” Sand continues his ride in American Road Trip, his 13th official release.

From songs about the road (“Road Trip,” “Trucker Song,” “Bull,” “Yodelin’ Night Before Christmas Hitchhike Blues”), to energetic punk ("Chair of the Month"), to feel-good hip hop (“Down at Habashi”), to pop ballad ("Prisoner Of Love"), to a capella verse (“Road Kill"), to political comedy (“Ronald McDonald”), to existential reflection (“Mr. Kent”), to family tribute (“Farmor”), American Road Trip is pure Sand—a true American original. 

CD design by Bess Bird.  Photo by Allison V. Smith.
On what is arguably the choicest radio cut,“Bull,” Sand channels Johnny Cash. The song roasts a former truck-driving employer with a galloping country rap: “He don’t like unions and he don’t like feds / If you slack on your job, Old Boy sees red / He’s bull, he’s a bull / He’s got horns in the sides of his skull…”  

The album's penultimate track is Sand's recitation of Bruce Kiskaddon's masterful 1924 poem, “When They’ve Finished Shipping Cattle In The Fall.” Over a moody electronic breakbeat that evokes cracked badlands and sunsets glinting off interstate asphalt, Sand is at his best--sincere and true in voice and tone, his loneliness upfront and undisguised. 

On American Road Trip, two decades of touring the country—as rapper, jester, social activist, truck driver, country singer, documentary subject*, and lonesome lover—crystallize into a lyrical scrapbook of life lived in the flow of creativity under the great shadow of American discontent.  Across frozen ground and disappearing daylight, Sand’s humor, hope, and grit abide. 

As No Depression’s Grant Alden wrote in 1998 “…[Sand’s] songs arise from the same dusty world Woody Guthrie wrote about without being mired in the dust of Guthrie's tradition."  Fresh, funny, and fierce, American Road Trip is one heckuva ride.  

*Roll Out Cowboy, award-winning documentary by filmmaker Elizabeth Lawrence, 2010:

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