Lancet, January 26, 2002

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  • 2002 January 26

UK & Ireland magazines


Concert for a landmine-free world

David McNamee

Leading American musicians joined with the more traditional John Prine and the UK player and songwriter, Elvis Costello, for a benefit concert in aid of the Campaign for a Landmine Free World. This is the first time the concert series has played outside North America. The acoustic guitar-pool, a Nashville tradition of singers in the round, took turns to sing solo or with each other.

Emmylou Harris' perfect harmonies balanced Steve Earle's Texan drawl on his lament to drug-lost days, "Goodbye": "But I recall all of them nights down in Mexico / One place I may never go in my life again / Was I just off somewhere just too high / But I can't remember if we said goodbye." It was Earle's 47th birthday on the day of the concert. "Nobody here is really for land mines," said Earle to introduce his love song "Valentine's Day." "Raise your hand if you are," he challenged — all hands stayed down.

Country and western music can be bluesier than blues music, as Prine sang on "Angel From Montgomery": "Make me an angel that flies from Montgom'ry / Make me a poster of an old rodeo / Just give me one thing that I can hold on to / To believe in this living is just a hard way to go." "Sad songs make me so happy," Harris reminisced about Gram Parsons, the genius behind country-rock (he styled it American Cosmic Music) who overdosed aged 26 in 1973. She and Costello mournfully sang "Sleepless Nights," from the Flying Burrito Brothers' album of the same name, which featured Parsons.

Bobby Muller, president of VVAF (see page 273), spoke from the stage: "Nothing has enabled me to garner more support for our work than Emmylou Harris and her friends." Harris and Nancy Griffith auctioned their silk scarves, made in Preah Vihear, Cambodia, in a VVAF-sponsored rehabilitation centre — £8000 was raised, enough to clear landmines from about eight football pitches.

Costello, backed by Griffiths, played a new and powerful song, "Alibi," about lies and excuses. Ireland and its traditional music is a major influence on American country music, as Earle showed on his mandolin homage to "The Galway Girl," "cause her hair was black and her eyes were blue." The musicians paid tribute to the influential Texan singer Townes Van Zandt, who died in 1997 from a heart attack, with Earl's "Fort Worth Blues." Prine's song "Paradise" — one could return to this green valley in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, if the coal company had not dug it up — ended the show.

Last year, Harris bought together some of the players at this concert and other friends to record a CD, Concerts For A Landmine Free World, whose royalties go to the Campaign (Vanguard Records VCD 79579-2).

Tags: Concerts For A Landmine Free WorldHammersmith ApolloLondon Emmylou HarrisSteve EarleNanci GriffithJohn PrineGram ParsonsSleepless NightsThe Flying Burrito BrothersAlibiAngel From Montgomery


The Lancet, January 26, 2002

David McNamee reviews the Concert For A Landmine Free World, Thursday, January 17, 2002, Hammersmith Apollo, London, England.


2002-01-26 Lancet photo 01 sg.jpg
John Prine, John Terzano (vice-president, VVAF), Nancy Griffith, James Hooker,
Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, Steve Earle, Bobby Muller (seated).
Photo copyright © 2002 Steve Gillett.


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