The Working Life: Employment songs, covered in folk
by Slaid Cleaves, Joshua James, Gillian Welch, Todd Snider & 16 more!
Re-entry into the working life is always tough after the holiday break, but this year has been a bit harder than most. The school where I work is struggling more than ever, trying to implement new methods and structures on the fly after being labeled failing by the state. The trickle-down effects of stress and sheer substance can make teaching less the usual tightrope, and more of a juggling act with too many balls in the air, where each choice made to serve one mandate means taking time and energy away from another, until terror becomes normative. And the turn-around time is incredible, with strategies taught to teachers in a professional development session this past Wednesday being observed in classes on Monday, even as we prepare students for district-written midterm exams received only Tuesday, and due midweek, that contain concepts and vocabulary no one knew to teach until we saw the tests themselves.
As I have said here before, I love my chosen career; love the students, and the noble struggle of reaching them; love the satisfaction of a curriculum well constructed, and those moments where teacher and students are in the zone, and epiphanies are made. But I love my family, too. And the drag that this year is putting on my best self outside the classroom is all the more apparent after two weeks on and off the road with them, with its constant reminder of how much love there is when we have each other to cherish.
Some songs about work, then, to mourn and maintain the necessity, and acknowledge the way it tears at the spirit to leave home in the darkness every day, and come home in another darkness, too late and too tired to give our best to ourselves and our families. Many are scavenged from a similar set originally posted in August of 2008, designed as a soundtrack for the job search that led me to this inner city school in the first place, but it seems fitting to uncover them, and share them anew, even as we add to their grace and gravity. For no matter how lucky we are to do what we love, there are always times when the weariness gets to us, and all we can do is sing.
- The Working Life: A Coverfolk Mix
- Jones Street Station: Tall Buildings (orig. John Hartford) 
- Slaid Cleaves: Working Stiff (orig. Melvyrn Taylor) 
- Richie Havens: Working Class Hero (orig. John Lennon) 
- Lavinia Ross: Millworker (orig. James Taylor) 
- Melissa McClelland: Factory (orig. Bruce Springsteen) 
- PoZitive Orchestra: Money For Nothing (orig. Dire Straits) 
- Ephemera: Manic Monday (orig. Prince/The Bangles) 
- The Notting Hillbillies: Railroad Worksong (trad.) 
- Joshua James: Custom Concern (orig. Modest Mouse) 
- Alison Krauss: 9 to 5 (orig. Dolly Parton) 
- Leslie King: Money (orig. Pink Floyd) 
- Tim O’Brien: Maggie’s Farm (orig. Bob Dylan) 
- Pamela Means: Maggie’s Farm (orig. Bob Dylan) 
- Gillian Welch: In Tall Buildings (orig. John Hartford) 
- Jeb Loy Nichols: Worried Man (orig. Johnny Cash) 
- Brett Ratliff: Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow (trad.) 
- Bruce Springsteen: Pay Me My Money Down (trad.) 
- David Lindley & Wally Ingram: Do You Want My Job? (orig. John Hiatt) 
- Peter Case: A Working Man Can’t Get Nowhere Today (orig. Merle Haggard) 
- Todd Snider: I Makes Money (Money Don’t Make Me) (orig. Jerry Jeff Walker) 
Cover Lay Down spreads the gospel of folk through coversong thanks to donors like you. As always, if you like what you hear here, please consider purchasing music from the artists we feature. After all, if it weren’t for our patronage, the music makers would be out of a job, too.