“It frustrates me that everyone, including myself, who participates in the modern world is losing grip with reality,” says Texas troubadour James Steinle. With his sophomore record, What I Came Here For, the singer-songwriter airs all his frustrations with the modern world – from emotional disconnect to ending vicious cycles.
His new song “Blue Collar Martyr,” premiering today on American Songwriter, considers the implications of exponential technological progress on the small town working man. “Call me a martyr / Call me the kin of Jesus / I do this workin’ just to keep on my lights / Flick to enlighten / Or tear down for desecration / The leaves are turning on a jaded old mind,” he sings.
Stepping into the narrator role, Steinle employs religious imagery as a way to process the hard reality staring him right in the face. “I’m equally fascinated and depressed by the modernization and automation of our global economy,” he says. “As robots become more cost-effective and precise and humans’ jobs become phased out, what is to happen to the workers who not only rely on these jobs for a paycheck, but also their legacy?”
The truth goes even deeper than that. He continues, “It seems almost like these people were already a forgotten generation, but now they are being erased. I understand completely that progress is progress, and there is no stopping the wheel that has always turned from turning, but the notion of these people being muted for the sake of technology is a terrifying prospect to me.”
“Blue Collar Martyr” is a heart-weary lamentation, and Steinle’s vocal is both unwavering and anxious. “A frustrated, blue-collar factory worker who’s realized their impending fate is the narrator of this song,” he says, noting folks for whom he wrote such a pointed, sorrowful tune. “The hands of laborers like them are the hands that built our roads, our vehicles, and essentially the human world as we know it – which gives people like me a desk to write these very thoughts on. So this song is for them.”
The desperation is punctuated with this startling final line: “Don’t have no purpose / Don’t have no pride anymore / Woke up this morning I was crucified.”
Steinle’s new album (out February 7) was recorded live-to-tape at The Bunker in Lockhart, Texas, alongside producer Bruce Robinson. The roster of musicians includes Scott Davis (bass, banjo, percussion, B3 Organ), Geoff Queen (pedal Steel, baritone guitar, dobro), Richie Millsap (drums/percussion), Sam Rives (wurlitzer, B3 organ, piano, bass), and Brian Broussard (electric, acoustic guitar).
Listen to “Blue Collar Martyr” below.
Photo Credit: Juliet McConkey