Eddie Starr

By Jim Conway

The sweathouse working conditions of a Western Illinois steel mill is the inspiration for Singin' Rhymes and Carryin' Signs.  The cover photography makes that evident, with Eddie Starr displaying his weapon of passive resistance (i.e., an acoustic guitar) while sporting a local steel worker's union shirt.  Starr is continuing the time-honored folk tradition of the laborer's constant struggle against the pink slip, but instead of the acoustic guitar backdrop of Pete Seeger or Woody Guthrie, Starr uses an amalgam of late Sixties pop influences. primarily represented by The Beatles.

The Saint Louis area performer uses Fab Four influences in songs like "Strikers Replacement," which laments the striking union member's fear of watching the scabs cross the picket line, and the uncertainty of his ever regaining the job that is rightfully his. With the younger George W. Bush might be close to obtaining residence in the White House, Starr's "Where Are The 1000 Points Of Light?" slams the elder Bush's misguided social propaganda of false idealism, just as Neil Young's "Rockin' In The Free World" so eloquently did a few years ago.  However, while Young's point of view came from the homeless, Starr's vision is clearly that of the working class.

Clocking in at over eight minutes, "A Part Of That Which Is" tells the epic tale of a common man who lives in desperate poverty and is shrouded by fear of the urban gang-land his once-quiet neighborhood has become. It seems that the only source of hope that can be mustered is the truth of his existence and the realization of being one of a million other Americans in the same desperate situation. The thought that these have-nots might unite and became one powerful entity is the fuel that feeds the flame of this album.

Despite some stylistic borrowing from The Stones' "Dead Flowers" and The Beatles' "Savoy Truffle" on "Take Us Back (To The Beginning)" and "Cornerstone Report" respectively, Singin' Rhymes does hit idealistic pay dirt with "Dream About Your World." The song basically points out that no one takes advantage of the less fortunate without the permission of the less fortunate. Starr emphatically encourages the listener by singing, "Everybody is free soul / No one has the power to place their locks upon your open mind."

What makes this collection work, unlike certain career-conscious posing by artists who champion the common man (like Stringsteen or The Clash), Eddie Starr is the genuine article. He is living by day at the steel mill and by night, armed only with guitar, vocal harmonies, and the truth as his weapons, he spreads his message. Whether it can change anything is open for debate but like the old adage says: sometimes the truth hurts.