Do Something Now
San Francisco-based, New Jersey born, Florida raised singer/songwriter and activist Pete Kronowitt is out with his latest set of rallying cry songs, Do Something Now. Kronowitt is the founder of the Face the Music Collective, a grassroots organization driving social and political change. However, what may be more notable to readers of these pages is that our own writer, Viola Krouse, also a singer-songwriter, is the co-writer with Kronowitt on two songs, “Stay Safe” and “Big Ole Stick of Wood.” And, invariably, we need to mention that her name is spelled incorrectly in the credits (shame on you Pete). Having gotten past that dig, here’s more on what the folk singer’s album is about. To his credit he embraces a variety of styles and tempos, including strains of Cajun and Latin. And, importantly, he brings most of it off in a playful, animated way, refraining from preachiness that often ruins the politically oriented albums despite lyrics as direct as these in the title track – “Polar bears can’t swim forever/Guns killed 7 kids today/Ten more lies, he’s a Russian spy/Women’s rights are being stripped away” and in the next chorus – “I’m going to tell you all it’s time to kick your ass in gear”
“Stay Safe” was written in part because Kronowitt was separated from his wife at the onset of the pandemic and travel was restricted. Krouse added her thoughts on the ever-widening political divide that has caused a different kind of mental and emotional divide amongst families (true for yours truly). It’s a song that Kronowitt plays live in every show, even now virtually. According to Kronowitt “Big Ole Stick of Wood” owes to Krouse’s lyrics or it might not be present on the album. It is Kronowitt’s melody and the song, according to Krouse, is a genuine co-write, a collaboration, especially on the choruses. Some of the thoughts here have spawned a separate song from Krouse that will hopefully eventually be recorded.
“What motivated me to create my fifth album was to deliver a message along with the music and use the music as a vehicle to have fun, engaging conversations at shows,” Kronowitt explained to host Dean Olson on a recent episode of StrongWriter on the Radio. “I’m old enough to remember those great songs from the late-60s and 70s, motivational songs that created a vision of humanity and highlighted really big issues in the world.”
The players on include drummer Darian Gray (Booker T), steel guitarist Tim Marcus, stand up and electric bass player John David Coppola, Kronowitt’s longtime collaborator, backing vocals by Veronica Maund and Justin Kohlberg on acoustic and electric guitars. They form a tight unit for the set that begins with the acoustic love song “Stay Safe,” urging us all to appreciate family and friends in these stay at home times. Right from the outset, Maund’s harmonies add a nice touch.
Kronowitt wrote the song “We’re All Gonna Die” in five minutes during a stream of consciousness but the song took on new life in the studio behind a driving rhythm section, crisp acoustic guitar strumming and the consistently bright harmonies Maund supplies, gives an ironic, carefree air to the lyrics. “Roly Poly,” for which there is an accompanying video, decries the blatant ignoring and in many cases, the tearing down of environmental policies that have resulted in fewer bees, butterflies, and roly-poly bugs. A jaunty drumbeat and Coppola’s lively support Kronowitt as he laments, “We’re the choices that we make.”
“Big Ole Stick of Wood,” the second Krouse co-write, has country tinges and, sings the praises and speaks to music as both a healing force and means of escape. The set closes with “Are We Great Yet?” perhaps the most directly political song, am ode to civil disobedience that denounces the current administration’s inability to face the truth. Kronowitt calls out Trump’s heartless policies, as Kohlberg takes a blazing guitar outro.
Kronowitt was planning a major tour to support Do Something Now. Given the realities of the pandemic, he’s transferred his activities to arranging 50 online shows for competitive state and national campaigns and causes. For example, Face The Music Collective produced a live stream concert on August 26th to mark the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage and featured top national ERA speakers.
Let’s just say Kronowitt lives by the adage, “Put your music where your mouth is” – one of today’s voices carrying on the tradition of outspoken singer-songwriters blazed by Pete Seeger, Woody Guthire, Dylan and others. Kronowitt brings a refreshing approach to the idiom.
- Jim Hynes