Download “Rough and Ready” by These United States | Though I didn’t catch the entirety of the Songs for Presidents show, it seemed on the whole that none of these 44 songs were particularly amazing–nothing like Sufjan Steven’s “Jacksonville” that alludes to the 7th American President, Andrew Jackson. But awakening this series of neutral-sounding songs–built on the repetitive task of celebrating an American President–to a more colorful life seemed easy to some of the artists who played that night: Jukebox the Ghost, Tim Fite, Middle Distance Runner and Laura Burhenn were some of those, amongst the ones I saw, but my absolute favorite was These United States’ version of “Rough and Ready”, which was written for the 12th American President Zachary Taylor, and which you can watch after the jump. Along with Tim Fite and Jukebox the Ghost, both of whom I unfortunately didn’t film, it was a rare instance where the performers seemed capable of wholly investing themselves in an okay song and making it sound just as good as their own (gorgeous). Go on, watch the video(s).
The acoustics at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue was a bit weird for this kind of show–everything somehow thinned out, making it sound like we might’ve been in a school gymnasium.
These United States, “Rough and Ready”
I loved it as soon as they started playing it. From the very first stomps, and then the very first word, Mexico…
Middle Distance Runner, “Such a Marvelous Dream”
I was surprised by the choice to make this song a quiet one, and it turned out really pleasant and sad! It kind of reminded me of “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” by Sufjan Stevens–I’m not sure where all these Sufjan comparisons are coming from, but in this case it may have been the immensely loving treatment of figures you normally wouldn’t think of as entirely lovable or vulnerable. There’s one part where the way the word “marvelous” is sung just sounds heart-breaking.
Laura Burhenn, “When Ike Walked the Land”
This version isn’t much different from the original, but Laura’s voice sounds great. And those old animations look adorable.
All photos (These United States) by Kashish
I’ll post the opening set from These United States at a later date.
Sixth and I Historic Synagogue
Jan 17, 2009