John Pietaro & The Flames of Discontent
I DREAMED I HEARD JOE HILL LAST NIGHT...
A CENTURY OF IWW SONG
"The Flames of Discontent does more than bemoan the tragedies of today and yesterday--they call for action" - The Industrial Worker, official newspaper of the IWW
"Don't miss these folks. They illustrate the radical heart of Labor through art and song" - Almanac Weekly, 9/06
"The Flames of Discontent breathe new fire into protest music" - Ulster Publishing/Woodstock Times, 7/06
"Anchored by the transfixing, melodic basslines of Laurie Towers, Pietaro's rallying cries are heightened by a band cooking with the heartfelt passion of making kicking-ass music for the masses...a timely, noble work."
-'Chronogram' Magazine, 9/05
"Radicalism in voice and song" - 'Pulse' Magazine, 12/05
"John Pietaro is a Joe Hill for the new century"
-Paul Buhle, historian/author, 9/05
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS 2005 IWW ANNIVERSARY ALBUM IS OUT OF PRINT BUT AVAILABLE HERE DIGITALLY.
A compact disc collection in honor of the centenary of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW): This gathering of radical union song and prose by Labor organizer/musician John Pietaro was developed in collaboration with historian/author Paul Buhle and musicologist/guitarist Clifford Murphy. It was sponsored by the Rhode Island Labor History Society. Pietaro, on vocals, 5-string banjo and other instruments, expanded his original duet with Laurie Towers (electric bass guitar) to include Murphy's steel-string and electric guitars and a cast of other veteran musicians. The line-up rounds out with fiddles, trombone, baritone saxophone, drumkit, and several spoken word selections.
Pieces by Wobbly bards are heard as both products of their time and activist vehicles for today in this musical journey through the first hundred years of the IWW. ...Joe Hill's The Preacher and The Slave offers an approximation of a raucous New Orleans parade ensemble that bridges a traditional Jazz sentiment with Cajun sounds. The declamatory trombone and fiddles as well as throbbing rhythm section of this track implode into the seemingly polite next number...The Popular Wobbly. This song is a 1917 parody written over a pre-World War I pop tune. The horn and string sections play in a style characteristic of the time, yet the insubordination of the lyric by T-Bone Slim somehow sneaks out into the ensemble's pre-Swing parody...ES Nelson's Workingfolk Unite celebrates the history of folk/protest music by virtue of both its traditional tune (that which Woody Guthrie would use decades later when writing Union Maid) and its line-up. Old-timey banjo and fiddles lead the ensemble in this classic melody so closely associated with the folk revival of the 1940s...Joe Hill's Where the Fraser River Flows, realized as a slow, driving song, the arrangement of which owes much to the more commercial Country music sounds of the 1950s-60s...Rebel Girl by Joe Hill is presented here as a pounding Rockabilly-influenced number. Cliff Murphy's electric lead guitar is especially effective in a Scotty Moore manner...The Cage, a musical adaptation by Pietaro of Arturo Giovannitti's multi-versed poem of imprisoned organizers during the 1912 struggle for Lawrence, the famed Bread & Roses strike. Stylistically, this one's influenced by singer-songwriter sounds of the 1970s...Bread & Roses by James Oppenheim and Caroline Kohlsaat, is a closing anthem is there ever was one. In the hands of this ensemble, this early 1900s piece transforms into pounding post-Punk protest.
In addition, the songs are interspersed by spoken word selections by Wobbly journalists Matilda Robbins, Justus Ebert, and Joe Hill, himself. The dramatic readings by Brown University students are accompanied by Pietaro's improvisations on nylon-string guitar or piano.
The stories in these songs and poems tell of the workers, the toilers, the activists, the people. The IWW made its music the core of its philosophy. Itinerant songwriters such as Joe Hill, Mac McClintock, Ralph Chaplin, T-Bone Slim and countless more, doubled as organizers for the IWW, the very first US workers organization that was fully equitable in both membership and constitution. Wobblies unionized workers not by individual craft but by the wider industry in which they were employed. This type of industrial organizing, decades later replicated by the CIO, quashed management's attempts to divide and conquer. And they embraced workers in all lands. The IWW was deemed dangerous by the status quo, by the very virtue of its mission and thereby became a primary target of the reactionary forces in government. But the songs, even one hundred years hence, live on. Angrily. And proudly! I Dreamed I Heard Joe Hill Last Night is an album celebrating the IWW's first 100 years, but it's a statement made by a member of today's Labor Movement from the confines of today's USA. Its never too late to, as the Wobblies shouted, Sing and Fight!
-John Pietaro: vocals, 5-string banjo, nylon string guitar, piano
-Laurie Towers: electric bass guitar
-Clifford Murphy: acoustic steel string guitar, electric guitar, guitar solos
-Tim Nylander: drumset
-Emily Miller: fiddle
-James Ruchala: fiddle
-Jim Costanza: trombone
-Emily Nemens: baritone saxophone
-and spoken word selections by Sarah Goldstein, Sarah Bowman and Steven Levenson
AIRPLAY: This CD has been broadcast on Oscar Brand's noted folk program on WNYC(New York City), WBAI-FM (New York City), WRPI-FM (Albany NY), WVKR-FM (Poughkeepsie, NY)and others in the New York and surrounding area, as well as on KAOS (Olympia, WA). It has also been heard on Worker Independent News programming (heard in various parts of the US)and internet broadcasts via 'Radio Labourstart', based out of London, UK, and free103.9, based out of Cairo, NY. Portions of the CD were also selected as a 'Song of the Week' at various points on websites www.unionist.com and www.biglabor.com
OFFICIAL ALBUM RELEASE: September 13, 2005, City University of New York Graduate Center event: "The 100th Anniversary of the Wobblies" organized by Paul Buhle.
John Pietaro is a musician , writer and activist. A percussionist who primarily performs Jazz and experimental music, Pietaro saw the need for updated, revolutionary songs of labor to be heard in today's social movements. Self-taught as a 5-string banjo player, he began performing this music for labor and peace rallies in the NY area and then founded the Flames of Discontent several years later. Outside of this duet/ensemble, he has performed with the legendary Pete Seeger, famed poet Alan Ginsberg, celebrated improvisational juaszz musician Karl Berger, saxophonist/composer Fred Ho, poet and vocalist Amina Baraka, "Freedom Singer" Matt Jones, topical songwriter Charlie King, the Ray Korona Band and punk-folk troubadour Kirk Kelly, among others and his quartet Radio NOIR. Events he has organized have featured the likes of Nora Guthrie, Amiri Baraka, David Rovics, Anne Feeney, Louis Reyes Rivera, Bev Grant, Judy Gorman, ReadNex Poetry Squad, the People's Music Network, Tuli Kupferberg of the Fugs, filmmaker Kevin Keating and others.
Pietaro's music was also heard at The Million Worker March (10/04, Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC); benefit concert for the IWW's campaign to organize Starbucks (8/04, NYC); the 85th Birthday Celebration of Henry Foner (3/04, New York University, NYC); the Solidarity Rally for the Transport Workers Union Local 100 (12/02,City Hall, NYC); and numerous other Labor-oriented events. He was also a performer at the commemoration of the life of Moe Foner, founder of 1199 SEIU's Bread & Roses Cultural Project, "Celebrate Moe" (Town Hall, NYC, 2002) and a member of Pete Seeger's accompanying ensemble for Music in The History of Struggle, a lecture and concert by Pete Seeger (11/99, NYC).
Pietaro served as organizer, host and performer of a variety of events including the Dissident Arts Festival (annual showcase of protest arts, 2006-2011 and counting!), Which Side Are You On? The Music of May Day (5/04, Union Square Park, NYC); The Arts Still Say 'No!' To War, a benefit concert for United for Peace & Justice (3/04, Brecht Forum, NYC); I Ain't Marchin' Anymore, a commemoration of Phil Ochs' music (12/03 NYC); The Workers Memorial Day-May Day Festival (4-5/03, NYC) a month-long celebration of Labor arts for which The Cultural Workers Consort was created; Made For You and Me...Over 60 Years of 'This Land is Your Land', a fundraiser for striking workers and a celebration of Woody Guthrie's music (2/01, NYC); Solidarity Forever: A Concert for International Labor Unity--a fundraiser for the NYC Central Labor Council '9/11 Relief Fund' (10/01, NYC); and The Hanns Eisler Centenary Festival (9/98, Brecht Forum, NYC).From 2000-2004, Pietaro organized NYC concerts in honor of May Day, the international workers' holiday. In 1999 he acted as musical director for part of the international cultural event in defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Mumia 911 (9/99, NYC).
"The Flames of Discontent" is comprised of Pietaro and electric bass guitarist Laurie Towers. Following the release of this CD, Pietaro and Towers chose to keep the band name intact, however in a more democratic presentation. In performance, the Flames range in size from the core duet to quartet and beyond and their repertoire grows from unique reconstructions of classic songs of protest, Labor and social justice. Stylistically, their music reflects the folk/protest genre threaded through rock of the 1960s and 50s with touches of punk, roots, free improv, spoken word and more. Pietaro originals such as "Revenge of the Atom Spies" are also features. In 2007, the Flames of Discontent released their second CD, REVENGE OF THE ATOM SPIES,which is also avaiable on CD Baby (see 'The Flames of Discontent'). For more info on either CD, the members current music or information on radical cultural workers see www.DissidentArts.com
Currently Pietaro works professionally as a Labor organizer in New York City. He is also affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World. Pietaro's articles have been published in Z magazine, Political Affairs, the Indypendent, Groundscore, the People's Weekly World, Portside, Fifth Estate and others. He also wrote a chapter in the book 'Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History', edited by Paul Buhle (Hill & Wang,2007). His blog is The Cultural Worker (http://theculturalworker.blogspot.com). Pietaro holds degrees in Music Performance, Music Education and Music Therapy as well as Organizing Certification.