“Hard Times,” a new recording by Michael the Blind, is definitely an appropriate song right now. I know the economic crisis has been beaten over our heads way too hard lately, but let's face it—times are motherfucking tough.
The Portland singer/songwriter (who really is legally blind—he can't lawfully drive) admits that the inspiration for his new song was a mix of listening to NPR too much, followed by listening to ‘50s UK folk singer Lonnie Donegan way too much, and it shows. The lyrics could have just as easily been retrieved from an old, lost folk song. But after realizing that all of the “hard times”-themed tunes he could think of were in major keys (maybe to uplift people and be optimistic about the situation?), Michael Levasseur decided to flatten the third, thus giving the tune a rather discouraging tone.
“I wrote the majority of the lyrics in about ten minutes and cribbed the rest in less than one,” Levasseur says via email, but with lyrics like “Even the undertaker's singing this sad old song/ I just had to ask him what was wrong/ He stuck his shovel in the ground/ He said, ‘Look here son, people these days just livin' too long,'” he must have had the idea churning in his mind for quite some time.
Every time I hear this song, I can't help but compare Levasseur to Ryan Sollee of The Builders and The Butchers. Both possess shaky, higher pitched voices, and the lyrics to “Hard Times,” contain the kind of old-time themes and disconcerting mood Sollee is known for. Although the song is currently unreleased, we can only hope that (as the times ease up) Michael The Blind will decide to record another full-length soon.
Michael The BlindSpace
Photo courtesy of Michael The Blind.