Concerts for a Landmine Free World
Various ArtistsVanguard Records 79579-2
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
The Concerts for a Landmine Free World were spearheaded by Emmylou Harris who proposed the singer-songwriter concert series after traveling with Bobby Muller, president of the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation and cofounder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, on a trip to Cambodia and Vietnam. This effort picks up where Princess Diana left off. Recorded during five successive nights in California in December 1999, Vanguard Records releases a compilation culled from the sold-out concert series featuring folk-rock to country crossover artists. |
Unlike most live albums, Concerts for a Landmine Free World is mellower and more acoustic. Since most of the artists were traveling light, they usually only accompany themselves with guitar, with the occasional background vocals added by their traveling companions. Listeners should expect a quiet, reflective album, rather than a raucus live album. Given such an intimate setting, the demands on the quality of the recording are raised, which I am pleased to note are quite good.
John Prine sends in a wonderful version of Big Ol' Goofy World. Gillian Welch and David Rawlings contribute their Morphine, a gentle Appalachian-inspired and harmony-laden melody. This Shirt by Mary Chapin Carpenter is reminiscent of I Am A Town in the life metaphor that it provides.
The winner of the category, "Song Most Related to the Issue of the Concert Series," goes to noted activist Bruce Cockburn. His introduction of Mines of Mozambique includes his justification for banning landmines, and in a typical Cockburn-esque style, he does not mince his words. His guitar burns with the fire of the urgency of the issue and he sings with poetic, but graphic, images of those affected by the tragedy of mines. This song surely must have been one of those spine-chilling performances during the concert series.
It's a Hard Life by Nanci Griffith is a showstopper whenever it is performed, but on this case, extra emotion seems to be added to the performance, making it one of the best live recordings of this song I've heard. The album closer, Steve Earle's Christmas in Washington, is appropriate no matter what time of the year it is. Introducing the song as about heroes and dedicating it to Bobby Mueller, Earle delivers another poignant moment on this CD. With the chorus, "Come back Woody Guthrie, come back to us now," Earle and the cast sing for the return of the days of political activism through song.
All proceeds from the sale of this disc benefit the Campaign for a Landmine Free World, a Washington, D.C.-based international humanitarian organization. It was founded in 1998 by the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation to address the danger and damage caused by antipersonnel landmines. Operating postconflict rehabilitation clinics and landmine awareness programs around the world, the campaign also conducts mine impact studies in landmine-affected nations, educates the public on the worldwide impact of the problem, and works to ensure the U.S. government will join the Ottawa Convention, a convention established to ban the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of antipersonnel landmines.