Andy Griggs – “Can I Get An Amen?”
Songwriters: Andy Griggs, Andrew Scott Wills, Chad Tyler
It’s inevitable that social hot-button topics seep into our musical landscape. In the 30’s, Woody Guthrie inspired future generations of folk artists to speak out for the oppressed. Sixties Anti-War and Civil Rights movements influenced rock music that became ever-present anthems for baby boomers. Country music has had a rich roster of artists speaking out against injustices, thumbing noses at the establishment and voicing strong opinions that strike a chord with their listeners: Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Loretta Lynn, to name a few. Southern rockers like Hank Jr., Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Van Zant have built their reputations on taking the rebel stance on stage.
Country artist Andy Griggs, better known for his sensitive ballads “She’s More” and “You Won’t Ever Be Lonely,” has not been political…until now. He’s making a comeback statement in a very big way by releasing his first single since 2009 – the controversial, southern rock rant “Can I Get An Amen?” Reinventing himself as a fed-up, card-carrying member of the NRA, Griggs takes “them” all on, from non-english speaking Americans, to liberals, to separation-of-church-and-state-ers, to welfare recipients. One gets the feeling that, if he could have gotten away with a six-minute song at radio, he would’ve have added more targets to his list.
The lyrics start out innocent enough, giving us a look at the staples of southern life, but Griggs soon gets his Irish up as he nears the chorus: “If the NRA ran the USA and we had some good ol’ boys as congressmen/They’d make the White House understand/That there’s a whole lot more of us than them/Can I get an amen?”
What’s perhaps more unsettling than nutty protest lines like these is that this song was presented at a political rally for Alaskan Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller, and became his theme song of sorts (Miller eventually lost to Republican write-in incumbent Lisa Murkowski, although Miller has now sued over election results). Lines like “Ain’t nobody gonna tell me not to spank my kids/’Cause I got the Ten Commandments to tell me how to live/And not Oprah, Fox or CNN” feed into the Tea Party hysteria that has been washing over the nation the last year and a half, reflecting that group’s polarizing agenda rather than just southern lifestyle. It’s interesting, yet puzzling, why Griggs added conservative-based Fox News to his missive, since that cable station gives a platform to many views shared in his song.
One-time minister Griggs’ new persona might be taking political opinion in song to a new distasteful level of pulpit-posturing for a country artist when he sings, “And if you got a problem with our kind/Then you can kiss us where the sun don’t shine/Can I get an amen?” Each time he repeats the refrain, he hopes he’s singing to the choir, provoking, even fanning the flames of their anger. No surprise that the production here includes background singers dutifully answering his question with a rousing “Amen.”
Even though this song teeters toward crossing the line of hate speech, its craft stands tall as an example of solid songwriting, with fresh rhymes, conversational phrasing and driving rhythm. Griggs’ vocal richness grabs you whether you want to listen or not; he’s in total command of this material, and his distinctive soulful strength is undeniable. Fiery electric guitars and a wailing harmonica add substance to his powerful return to radio that takes an unlikely rebel-politic stance, sounding more like John Birch incitation than Mr.–Smith-Goes-to-Washington protest.
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