It’s not like the world really needs another tribute album. There are already hundreds out there, running the gamut from the obvious (like the Beatles or Hank Williams) to the asinine (like string quartet renditions of Evanescence.) Still, the idea of an album recreating the Clash’s Sandinista! is outrageous enough to pique a perverse curiosity. It certainly wasn’t their most cohesive effort, rambling as it did through a myriad of musical styles. What it may have lacked in focus, however, Sandinista! stands alone as the Clash’s most audacious album.
It makes sense, then, that The Sandinista Project would be equally audacious in its attempt to recreate the original work’s 36 tracks, using almost that many artists, interpreting them in often unexpected styles. Certainly not an album for Clash purists, TSP often draws its inspiration more from Appalachia than Kingston, and at least as much from the honky-tonk as the disco. What rock journalist turned producer Jimmy Guteman and the diverse assemblage of musicians represented here have done is taken the original album’s material and placed it in a present-day context. Think of it as a renovation project of sorts.
The world is a much different place (at least, superficially) now than when the Clash released Sandinista! in the dying days of 1980, but the themes they expressed on the album are as relevant now — if not more so — as they were when 1984 loomed on the horizon of uncertainty. It’s only the context that’s changed. So when Jason Ringenberg and Kristi Rose take “Ivan Meets GI Joe” out of a frenetic London disco and have them face off in an East Texas honky-tonk, it’s not only amusing, but somehow more relevant - we get two over-the-hill adversaries in a beer-soaked bar fight. Likewise, Ruby on the Vine’s rendition of “Rebel Waltz” conjures up images of American warriors fighting grimly against hopeless odds, just as the Coal Porters’ version of “Something About England” brings it home to the mines of Kentucky, rendered in a purely bluegrass idiom.