Earlier this month, Appleseed Recordings — an independent folk music label devoted to raising consciousness about a variety of social issues — celebrated its tenth anniversary as a label by releasing its first ever sampler disc. Unlike many such compilations however, Sowing The Seeds was much more than a quick history lesson.
Spread over two discs with a total of 37 tracks — many of which appeared for the first time on this collection — Sowing The Seeds is more like a primer course on folk music itself, that covers virtually every aspect of the genre. From British folkies like Donovan and Al Stewart, to their American counterparts like Roger McGuinn, Joan Baez, and Ramblin' Jack Elliott, no stone is left unturned on Sowing The Seeds. For the novice, it is a perfect introduction, while there are also enough rare goodies here to satisfy even the most diehard folkie purist.
Well, it seems the folks at Appleseed are at it again.
Give US Your Poor is a new single-disc compilation from Appleseed Recordings designed to raise awareness in the hopes of eradicating the problem of homelessness. The label also is putting its money where its mouth is, by donating a percentage of the profits to the Give US Your Poor Campaign To End Homelessness, which was formed at Boston's Graduate School of Policy Studies.
Once again, Appleseed has brought together a formidable array of talent for this compilation, including such high profile music names as Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Bonnie Raitt, Natalie Merchant, and Jewel, as well as actors like Danny Glover and Tim Robbins (who appear on spoken word pieces backed by music). The musical twist here is that on many of the tracks, the stars are paired with homeless or formerly homeless musicians.
One of the major selling points of Appleseed's Sowing The Seeds was of course the first ever duet between Bruce Springsteen and folk icon Pete Seeger on Springsteen's "The Ghost Of Tom Joad." Here, the pair team up once again for the more traditional "Hobo's Lullaby." But the musical styles here go far beyond folk, to encompass bits and pieces of everything from jazz to blues to gospel.
Among the most interesting tracks are Jon Bon Jovi putting an arena rock spin on his duet with the once homeless Mighty Sam McClain for the rousing gospel tune "Show Me The Way." Bon Jovi actually takes it to church quite convincingly here.
Keb Mo plays slide guitar with homeless musician Eagle Park Slim on the bluesy sounding "Baby Don't Let Me Go Homeless." Bonnie Raitt teams with bluesman Weepin' Willie Robinson in a raucous take on Rufus Thomas' classic "Walkin The Dog," that approaches the dirty sounding funk of Tower Of Power at times. Sweet Honey In The Rock deliver their usual mix of gorgeous harmonies and righteous indignation on "Stranger Blues."
But there are also surprises from the not so famous names here. Sonya Kitchell's "So Lonely," has the sort of smoky, torchy, surreal sound that would find itself at home either in a coffeehouse or a jazz club 'round closing time. Think equal parts Rickie Lee and Norah Jones here, and you wouldn't be far off the mark at all. Buffalo Tom's "Ink Falling (Father Outside)," has the sort of folk rock twang that instantly recalls Robbie Robertson and The Band.
As usual, Appleseed Recordings also puts all of this great music together in a wonderful package, even for a single disc compilation. The booklet included here includes extensive notes on every single track included, as well as several well thought out essays on the plight of the homeless (including a short, but poignant one from Bon Jovi). There is also information on the Give US Your Poor Campaign To End Homelessness, and how you can get involved.
While the plight of the homeless is one of the most serious problems facing our society, the tone of much of the music here is both celebratory and jubilant. Taken on purely musical terms, Give US Your Poor is already a great compilation. The fact that it may help someone less fortunate only sweetens the pot.
Give US Your Poor will be available in stores next Tuesday September 25. Appleseed Recordings is also offering the CD to homeless organizations as an educational tool at manufacturer's wholesale cost.