Cotton Mather to Edmund Ruffin, the Musical Journey

I am trying to be a serious person in these serious times, but permit me to take moment […]

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I am trying to be a serious person in these serious times, but permit me to take moment to follow up on the Early American History Band Names thread from a while back. Mention was made of the 90s power pop outfit Cotton Mather, out of Austin, TX.

I have just learned that Cotton Mather leader Robert Harrison’s new band, Future Clouds and Radar, has a new album coming out next week, and that the American history references continue, albeit to a later period. Song #2 on Peoria is something called “Old Edmund Ruffin.” The rumor is that FC&R is doing a little tour through my environs (Columbia, Chicago, St. Louis & Louisville) week after next, so I look forward to asking Harrison how he came to name pop bands and songs after Puritan theologians and hyper-secessionist editors.

Future Clouds and Radar’s eponymous debut album from last year is also very much worth seeking out. An epic two-CD set, the best song on that collection (video below) also has some geek value. It’s “Build Havana” and appears to use Fidel Castro’s capital city as a metaphor for the sort of relationship that the singer would like to have: “Our love’s in currency that I can’t hold.” I think this metaphor might qualify Robert Harrison as a socialist under current rules, so John McCain might want to look into that. Most struggling indie rock bands do stand in need of some wealth-spreading.


This article originally appeared in issue 9.1 (October, 2008).

Jeffrey L. Pasley is associate professor of history at the University of Missouri and the author of “The Tyranny of Printers”: Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic (2001), along with numerous articles and book chapters, most recently the entry on Philip Freneau in Greil Marcus’s forthcoming New Literary History of America. He is currently completing a book on the presidential election of 1796 for the University Press of Kansas and also writes the blog Publick Occurrences 2.0 for some Website called Common-place.

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