A Review of the Various Artistes CD
"Not In Our Name"

"Not In Our Name"
by Various Artistesg


This review is written by Dai Woosnam, daigress@hotmail.com, 3/08

There I was watching the BBC TV news as over a million people marched in London in protest against the Iraq War, when who should be interviewed, but a British folk music celebrity amongst the marchers. Roy Bailey. This was back in February 2003, the month before Bush and Blair invaded Iraq.

Immediately I saw Roy, I felt ashamed. No, not ashamed of HIM, but of myself.

For I too had been against this madcap imperialist adventure from the start, but had “other things to do” that weekend. Typical “armchair warrior”, whereas the Baileys of this world, put their heads up over the parapet, and commit themselves.

And he is doing it still. Commendably sending back his MBE in August 2006 (for you non-Brits reading this: it is an award from The Queen granted in recognition of special merit), and involving himself against injustice wherever it manifests itself, he is at it again with his contribution to this CD. An album that bears the secondary title of “Singing Out About The Wars In Iraq & Afghanistan”.

I salute him.

But perhaps I should offer even greater respect to his fellow performer (and contributor to this CD) David Ferrard of Edinburgh, who has done much of the work in getting this album off the ground. It is a very strong compilation and all the proceeds go to a great cause: the Stop The War Coalition.

Apart from Roy Bailey and his accompanist Martin Simpson, there are several stellar UK Folk names on this CD: e.g. Leon Rosselson, Dick Gaughan, Jez Lowe, Rory McLeod and Robb Johnson. But solid thought their contributions were, it was the lesser known artistes that caught my ear.

Is it fair to call Seize The Day “lesser-known”? Probably not. They are hugely popular on the festival circuit, and they don't get bigger than the mighty Glastonbury, where they will be this year. But they tend usually not to perform at mainstream folk festivals, but more the alternative folk/ecology festival circuit.

Which is our loss. Because they are extraordinary. They perform the standout track on a very strong album. Fantastic lyrics, a chorus-to-die for (pun unintentional, but I'll claim it was, I like it so much!), and performed with tremendous brio. Their “United States” is the best song I have ever heard anywhere on this Iraq War: it even shades it in a photo finish from David Rovics and his blistering “Operation Iraqi Liberation - OIL”. That great song alas is not represented here, but Rovics does make an appearance with “Waiting For The Fall”, a song that doesn't disappoint.

Montana-based Amy Martin is someone I had never heard of, but gosh she writes and performs a song that has a haunting quality. “Home Uninjured” with its gorgeous string quartet accompaniment and its soaring chorus just lodges itself first in your head and then in your heart. Had never heard of Emma's Revolution either: but this duo give us “Code Pink”, which I first foolishly thought was lightweight, but by the end of my third listening had come to realise was rather profound, and very infectious.

But perhaps the “Track With The Most Profundity Award” for this CD should go to the closing item: Mark Erelli's “The Only Way”. I promise you, the United Nations will do worse than adopt it as their anthem. LOVE is the only answer.

But before I go overboard in my praise of this album, perhaps I should play devil's advocate. For instance, imagine you are pro (or at least neutral) on this crazy war: is there anything here for you on this disc?

Well, daft though it may sound, yes. Truly there is. You do not need to share a writer's opinion to appreciate his/her work. And indeed, coming at it from a slightly hostile standpoint, might actually be healthy.

For instance, Eliza Gilkyson goes for the Bush jugular in her opening track. She tells us words to the effect that born–again Dubya can hardly be a “man of God” given his actions. She should stop and think that Osama bin Laden also claims to be God-fearing, and his actions were not exactly pacific. (But needless to say, in order to make her point, she keeps such thinking out of her song!)

Gosh, no space to mention several other very worthy performers. Suffice to say that this is an important release that - on any level you want – succeeds emphatically. Buy it.

Dai Woosnam
Grimsby, England

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