Here in Vermont, aka the "Green Mountain State," we come by our nickname honestly. The land is fruitful and so are the many artists, musicians, and writers who call it home. And more often than not, they want to keep the Green Mountain State green. (And "blue," as well, but we'll save that for a different discussion.)
Case in point: Derrik Jordan, from the particularly fruitful town of Brattleboro, is a man on a mission. On his new CD, Touch the Earth, he exhorts his listeners to "touch the earth while you can," to "find your place in this creation." He asks the tough questions: "Why don't we stop killing the country? Why don't we stop spreading the poison?" and "Who is the hunter? Who is the prey? Who is the master? Who is the slave?" And he prophesies as righteously as a Jeremiah or an Isaiah: he calls the human race an endangered species, "fragile creatures on a fragile world," and warns that "Something's gonna change … for survival has become the challenge of the age."
Except the Old Testament prophets (as far as we know) weren't backed by a reggae beat, or salsa, or other African or Latin-American rhythms. Jordan does it all on this CD, with the occasional pure pop for now activists, and he does it with a mixture of passion and talent that will get you up and dancing on your way to picket the local nuclear power plant.
Derrik Jordan has been making music for years, has performed and recorded with dozens of artists, and produced three albums of his own. His musical interests are as passionate as his love for the planet, and he's traveled the world over to study different musics. His various quests come together on Touch the Earth, as Jordan sings and plays electric and acoustic violin, acoustic and electric guitar, keyboards, congas, bass guitar, kalimba, autoharp, recorder, wooden flute, ocarina, mandolin, quica, Jew's harp, hammer dulcimer, berimbau, conch, shakers, tambourine, drums, claves, bells, bongos, snaps, claps, talking drum, djembe, surdo, breckete, triangle, bird whistle, and steel pan.
With versatility like that, who needs a band? Nonetheless, Jordan is ably accompanied by Tom "T-Bone" Wolk on bass and nylon-string guitar; Johnny Yuma and Sean McLoughlin on drums; Nebulai on didgeridoo; and the Mighty Simba Horns-Steve Sonntag, Charlie Schneeweis, Bob Stabach, and Dan DeWalt. (Simba is a local funk/jazz/world groove band with whom Jordan performs, and you should check them out whenever you can. They throw bitchin' dance parties at the solstices-make sure you get there for the snake dance.)
As you might expect, Jordan also puts his money where his violin bow is: ten percent of his profits for Touch the Earth go to such organizations as the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and the Citizen's Awareness Network. But you don't have to know this to simply enjoy the music: Jordan plays his violin like a master shaman, edgy and strident one minute, wistful and ethereal the next. His vocals are also quite accomplished; he can croon or belt it out with ease, sometimes within the same line. And when the Simba horns shift into their funk groove, you'd think you were in the Motor City instead of the great white north.
Some standouts on Touch the Earth include the funkified True Love; the angry reggae of Something's Gonna Change; the instrumental Undying, on which Jordan's spacey violin work really lets his freak flag fly; and Song of the Forest, which weds AM radio pop with Native American poetry to produce a genuinely moving and reverential piece.
All this in a CD case that doesn't use a scrap of plastic, except for the octagonal nipple that holds the CD in place. There's no indication of the cardboard being recycled, but I wouldn't be surprised. Now see, if more record companies packaged their CDs in slender little cardboard cases like Derrik Jordan's, then consumers would have more room on their shelves for more CDs. If they had more room, they might buy more CDs, and record companies could make more money in consumer purchases and spend less on petrochemical-based packaging that pollutes the atmosphere during production and sits for thousands of years in landfills. And then, see, if they made the cardboard out of industrial hemp, they'd be using an annually renewable crop source and so wouldn't have to destroy so many damn trees…
Okay, I'm done. For now.
Granted, Jordan is definitely preaching to the choir. Most likely no one who isn't already aware of environmental concerns will be moved to listen to, let alone purchase, this recording. (How many Bushies do you know went to see "Fahrenheit 9/11"?) Perhaps rather than winning converts, Touch the Earth is more concerned with encouraging those who are already aware and at work to keep up the good fight. And to have a good time while they're doing it, with a performer who is himself deeply in touch with the earth.
Look: This recording makes my parakeets sing-what further recommendation do you need?
Page design by David N. Pyles