Review of Rust Belt Fields by Slaid Cleaves

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Happy New Year all!
This is the first in a new series of monthly posts. I’ll pick one of my favorite songs and write a little mini-review-analysis of the song and provide a link to a video on YouTube of the song.
Analyzing songs is a real good way to learn what makes a song tick. Taking a song that you really like (or really don’t like) and figuring out why is a fun and useful skill to have. It is also a great tool in your own songwriting. Something not quite working? This exercise helps you figure out why.
This month’s post features Rust Belt Fields by Slaid Cleaves and Rod Picott.
This song is a very well constructed song both lyrically and musically. Its imagery is very stark and the language is very simple. The thing that really impresses me about the song is how without using much metaphor it paints a very complete picture. What I mean is it tells a very complete story with just a few lines.
Example: The opening two lines = what the whole song is about. Also the first verse tells the bigger picture of those blue collar jobs in middle America just drying up out from under thousands of people who had generations of steel and auto workers. The language “we were banging out Buicks and Oldsmobiles” is brilliant. Again not many words painting a very complete picture with simple language. All because the business found a more competitive labor market outside the USA. The workers were surprised. The line “But I learned a little something. About how things are.” Really shows how all those people came to the realization how fragile their lives were with regards to the effect a corporation’s decision causing their lives to go into a tailspin.
I also really like the music. Very simple harmony and melody but a very concise harmonic language and driving rhythm.

Rust Belt Fields
by Slaid Cleaves and Rod Picott
This is my town
Out in the rust belt fields
We were bangin’ out Buicks
And Oldsmobiles
There was always a job
And the money was there
Some say we got a little lazy
Nobody seemed to care
But they figured it out
And shipped the elbow grease
Down to Mexico
And off to the Chinese
And I learned a little something
‘Bout how things are
No one remembers your name
Just for working hard
Drove into the ground
Till your factory’s cold
Then they tear it all down
And the parts get sold
Come the bankers now
Pickin’ over the bones
I got three more neighbors now
‘Bout to lose their homes
‘Cause they figured it out
And shipped the elbow grease
Down to Mexico
And off to the Chinese
And I learned a little something
‘Bout how things are
No one gets a bonus
For bloody knuckles and scars
No one remembers your name
Just for working hard
There’s a casino boat
It’s up around Boon
Think I’ll buy me a bottle
And a motel room
Put all I have left
On a little black square
Risk it all like the big boys
Like I don’t even care
They’ll drive you into the ground
Till your engine’s cold
Call in the auctioneer
As the banks foreclose
And I learned a little something
‘Bout how things are
No one gets a bonus
For bloody knuckles and scars
No one remembers your name
Just for working hard
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Later,
Art Davis

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