Music with meaning. Music with power. Music with consequence. That’s what the Syracuse Peace Council’s PeaceSongsCNY (www.peacecouncil.net/songs) is all about. The Syracuse Peace Council was founded in 1936 and is now the oldest antiwar/social justice organization in the United States. Compiling nineteen tracks from eighteen Central New York musicians and one South Florida artist, SPC has created a smorgasbord of everything you wanted to hear that speaks to you, that empowers you, and that raises you to action.
Now this is a something-for-everyone CD that ranges from Tamaralee Shutt (www.tamaralee.biz) singing “One Earth” backed by the resonate beat of a tongue drum, to the full-ensemble sound of the Syracuse Community Choir (www.syracusecommunitychoir.org) presenting “No More Genocide” in powerful choral harmony. So it’s beyond the scope of this one review to cover all the amazing talents and sounds you will hear on PeaceSongsCNY. That’s why I’m going to focus on my three favorite tracks.
I’ll start with track five by Laura Sue the Silver Nightingale (www.silvernightingale.com) who is the only non-CNY musician to be included on this CD. An ex-patriot of Central New York, Laura Sue now hails from right here in Broward County, Florida, where she’s been a perennial music-flower in our local folk and acoustic music scene. Her offering to this compilation, titled “No Nukes Swing,” is a jaunty, foot-tapping composition which reminds us that “the only thing those nukes are good for is a big old nuclear war!” The snappy piano playing, the wonderful vocals by the band Laura Sue And Friends, and even its kazoo solo all shout out “No nukes in my coffee / No nukes in my tea / No nukes in my backyard / That’s just a little too close for me.”
Laura Sue’s backyard neighbor on PeaceSongsCNY is track six: a beautiful, live performance of the late Jolie Rickman (1970-2005; www.jolierickman.com) singing “Peace Loving Nation.” Joined by the Syracuse Community Choir, this homage to non-violent icons like Emma Goldman and Martin Luther King, Jr., implores us to “wrestle your finger from the trigger of the gun and come and join hands with the peace loving nation.” The shrill thrill of her effervescent voice proclaiming “My town idiot / Calls himself President / And he says these children’s / Deaths are unfortunate” makes you want to run right out into the street and demand accountability.
Finally, I was enthralled by track sixteen: Scott Simolo’s “No One Here.” With a steel-stringed, slide guitar underbelly, this is an unflinching diatribe worthy of Tom Waits writing the theme song for a Coen brother’s movie. Asking, “If you make a case against the state / Be careful they don’t play the same set of rules / Have to sacrifice your only life for a movement / For a revolution, or won’t you chose,” it forces one to examine our own part, even the active role we sometimes play in the demons we vilify. Are you really creating change or just repeating the same mistakes? Are you actually enacting revolution or merely taking part in a slow paced movement? With insightful lyrics, jazzy vocals, and inspired music rivaling that of Rickie Lee Jones singing the opening title track to The Sopranos, Scott leaves you asking how can I do more?
Now those of you who have had the opportunity to hear PeaceSongsCNY may have favorites other than mine, and that’s okay. After all, that’s what a great compilation is all about. Because in the end, this is a CD of meaning, power, and consequence that’s got something for everyone.