P.O. Box 2593
West Chester, PA 19380
Calico Tracks Music
P.O. Box 236
Ukiah, CA 95482
This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 10/02
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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To a social activist, Holly Near's discography has a kinship to presents under the Christmas tree. There is going to be something for everyone, in the case of the gifts, and, given Near's prolific musical output over the years, a song for every cause.
Throughout both these releases, flags are flown and anthems are sung about nuclear power concerns, Civil War era and present day slavery, the plight of migrant workers, abuses by military dictatorships, and social, racial and sexual inequality. One always knows which way the wind is blowing with Near as she confronts these subjects head-on, laying out a black-and-white litany of concerns, along with the direction necessary for peace and justice to take root and bloom.
For political and social singer-songwriters, black-and-white it must be, for shades of gray fail to generate that necessary stampede to the barricades. Subtlety fails to coalesce the numbers needed to impress the powers-that-be and force social change.
"Lifeline Extended" is a collaboration of Near and former member of The Weavers, Ronnie Gilbert. Originally a 16-song release, now expanded to a 23-song, 2-CD offering, the cuts are culled from a series of 1983 concerts at The Great American Music Hall (now there's some delicious irony) in San Francisco.
What is interesting about the featured songs is the inclusion of musical or Broadway-type numbers. "Isabel" is one such song, as is the "Stormy Medley," consisting of "Stormy Weather," "Come Rain Or Come Shine," "After You've Gone," "People Will Say We're In Love," and "For Me And My Gal." Near and Gilbert display a versatility and range unknown to many.
Also featured are many compositions either penned by Near or closely associated with her: "Biko," "Pastures Of Plenty," "Hay Una Mujer Desaparecida," "No More Genocide," "Singing For Our Lives," and "Singing With You."
Jeff Langley deserves special mention as his backing on the piano is as important an element as Near's and Gilbert's singing. He creates an true trio on stage.
The 2-CD, 37 songs strong "and still we sing - the outspoken collection" is the more politically dominant of the two releases. The first CD features studio tracks, followed by live cuts on the second release.
The opening cut, "Fired Up," powerfully kick starts the offering. The aforementioned "Singing For Our Lives." is a thoughtful conclusion. In between, Near covers "I Ain't Afraid," "Foolish Notion," "Simply Love," a rewritten "O Holy Night," and "Fight Back." Near also does a fine version of Jeff and Johanna Hall's anti-nuclear song "Power."
Her "Mountain Song" could easily have been included on the "Songcatcher" movie soundtrack. Politically and musically, it's a perfect fit.
Near performs with Mercedes Sosa, Inti-Illimani, Rhiannon, Brian Lane Green and Ronnie Gilbert on different cuts throughout "and still we sing - the outspoken collection."
Resurrect those protest signs and get ready for your indignation to swell with either of these releases.
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