I have been immersing myself with the recordings and Music Mission of Todd Clouser. Over the coming weeks I will be reviewing his previous recordings. Today I start with his latest release Boy 44 and his Music Mission projects. Boy 44 is a song cycle inspired by the events surrounding the kidnapping and presumed murder of 43 male students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College who went missing in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico on September 26, 2014. To read more about the incident go to this Wikipedia article. Todd is an American who lives in Mexico City. He is focused on using music to serve under-served communities. I strongly suggest you join me in supporting Todd in his Music Mission by making quarterly contributions through his Patreon account. Boy 44 has been released to Todd’s patrons a week before its release to the public. He also makes short documentaries available of the work he is doing through the Patreon funding.
Without knowing anything about the story behind the album, the songs stand well on their own. This is a musically strong album with excellent work by Todd Clouser on guitar and vocals, John Medeski on Piano, Aaron Cruz on bass, and Gustavo Nandayapa on drums. Todd’s vocals are mostly spoken on this album. It really brings out the poetic quality of the lyrics.
“This Mexico” starts the album with a slow steady beat and a recitation of the Mexico Todd knows. What it is and what it is not. The adventurous music bubbles just underneath the spoken vocals. On an album of strong songs, this is one of my favorites.
“Somebody Watching You” has the music and lyrics matching. Both painting a picture of paranoia. When the worst has happened to those around you, paranoia is truth. Toward the end of the song the music becomes fractured as the words ask about if Boy 44 was you.
“All That Money” has a strong piano chord progression sitting beneath the sung vocals. I really like this song but it is hard to describe. Like much of the music of Todd Clouser it is a mixture of rock, jazz, and avant garde. Talking about the “boys with the blood on their guns” and “what will they do with all that money”.
“You the Brave” tells us we are not a “product and it’s consumer”. A grungy guitar riff runs throughout most of the song. This is a song of what we are not. But there is strength of soul and purpose that all the negations add up to.
“He’s Not Gone”repeats the same 6 words over and over a very active musical bed. The piano riff leading the way. “He’s not gone, he’s just waiting.” The strength of the music making up for the lyrical monotony.
“Bread and Circus” is another favorite among favorites. It refers to the government trying to get public favor by offering food and diversions. Doing good things just for the photo opportunity it provides. “The government is letting grass grow tall between school and town on streets named after people they would surely murder.” The previous lyric just a small example on this lyrically rich song.
“When I Grow Up” has whispered lyrics. We have to lean in to try to understand what Todd is singing. But the effort bears fruit. The wistful lyrics matching the delivery.
“Empathy Bird” contains a strong piano chord progression. Another spoken sung lyrically strong song. The empathy bird taking on the deaths and returning life.
“Boy 44” is a song with vocalizing but no lyrics. It ends with an avant garde touch.
“Remember When You Have a Son” is a great ending to a great album. “And that an artist is not to be believed when they insist the work is simply for themselves” is but a sample of the great lyrics of this song.
Hopefully this review will encourage you to check out Boy 44 when it is released to the public the week of July 15th, 2016. Consider contributing to Todd’s Patreon account and get the album for free and before it is released to the public.