We Ain't Gonna Give It Back:
Songs for the Labor Movement

John O'Connor

P.O. Box 582
Greenfield, MA 01302

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
By John Rae
(raej@gov.on.ca)

Songs on the c.d. are:

This independently released 15-track c.d., covers both familiar, as well as contemporary, labor issues and should be of great interest to anyone who enjoys this kind of topical material. O'Connor draws extensively upon his own experiences as a worker and union activist.

The opening track, "This Old Town", discusses a familiar theme, the devastating effect on a small, yet fairly prosperous, town when an interstate highway is built--the packing house closes up and moves away, the railway no longer stops, and the remaining residents wonder how they, and the town, will survive.

"The Press Room" poignantly and powerfully highlights the boredom caused by repetitive factory work and how mechanization and computerization are causing more worker displacement and higher levels of unemployment rather than leading to increased worker efficiency and less monotonous work.

"The Ballad of Labor Law" discusses the increasing reliance upon legislation and reminds us all that we must not allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of security by such laws, for laws do change. O'Connor emphasizes that "good old organizing is the only way to make the union strong."

"It's a Dirty Old Hole" covers the well-documented tough life and dangerous working conditions of coal miners, but with an different twist. In this song, a female shakes off the objections of her family and decides to follow her own destiny and go down into the mines to join the struggles and to seek a good-paying job despite the tough conditions.

"Carpel Tunnel" focuses on a very contemporary and growing problem. This song describes work in a meat-packing plant and how the repetitive hand and arm movements eventually cause this debilitating and painful condition.

The c.d. is clearly recorded, with minimal backing which spotlights O'Connor's excellent lyrical content. I thoroughly enjoyed this recording, and am eagerly looking forward to his future projects. The long-term success of any social movement requires that it constantly seek out new recruits and converts. While John O'Connor in no way can be considered a newcomer to unionism, his approach offers a refreshing contemporary feel to both old and new topics.

[Edited by: David Schultz]

Copyright 1996, Three Rivers Folklife Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior written permission and attribution.

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