Lowen & Navarro: What Kind of World Do You Want?

There are times when someone says something so powerful, something so important, and says it in such a way that hearing it becomes equally as important; this is one of those times.

Lowen & Navarro are musicians I met years ago at the NERFA folk music conference. I remember Eric Lowen as a very tall, powerful man who walked with a cane. We went down a hallway together on one of those hectic evenings and I remember him asking me about what I do. I told him I wasn’t a “real musician” as he was, because I don’t write songs, don’t record them, don’t do all those things we associate with professional musicians. I remember he looked down at me with those kindly eyes and laughed. “None of those things make me real and you not,” he said, “It’s only that we do things differently.” For the rest of the walk, I felt as tall as Eric.

I hadn’t seen him since then, and now I know why: ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

And, what does Eric do with his music now? He sings it better than ever, and raises his voice with those of others afflicted with ALS, to raise money for the research into finding a cure.

Please watch Lowen & Navarro’s video – each viewing generates a donation. This is folk music at its most powerful.  Sing along.

Songs I Wish Everyone Could Hear

I spend almost no time at all with recorded music.  With the exception of the songs I have uploaded from CDs to my computer at work, I have no electronic means of listening to anything — but, I’m not complaining.  The music I hear is all produced “live” — either I play it for myself, or I am in the audience somewhere enjoying what musicians are playing on stage.  My CD collection is almost entirely purchased directly from the musicians who wrote the music and made the recordings.

While reading the lists my friends have created, containing the songs they love and why they love them, it occurred to me that this was a perfect format for promoting the music and musicians I have come to love and admire.  With that, I present here a quick list of some favorite artists, with links to places where I found sound samples whenever possible.

Paul Kaplan.  Paul is based in Massachusetts, home of Click & Clack, the Tappit Brothers, and he actually got his song This Old Car included on their radio program!  If the link I am inserting works, you will be able to hear samples of songs off Paul’s After the Fire CD, one of my favorites — when was the last time you heard The Leaving of Liverpool?  I recommend Give My Bones to Greyhound if you want travelin’ music, and there is no sweeter song I have ever heard than So I Could Get to You for a declaration of love.  Look for Paul on YouTube, also.

Zoe Mulford.  I cannot praise this musician highly enough. She comes second on this list only because she lives in Manchester, England, now and as such her US appearances are limited.  Please visit her website and see if she’ll be in your area, because live music is best, but otherwise buy one or both of her CDs.  They are worth twice the price.  The link in her name should also bring up audio samples.  It’s hard to choose a favorite, but  Songs of Love and Distance off her Traveling Moon CD is a beautiful example of her crystalline voice and her wise lyrics all at once.  From Roadside Saints, I recommend Gonna Wear Red (an anthem for discarding rules) or American Wake (a true Irish wink of a song.)

Cosy Sheridan. The first time I heard Cosy, she was recording the song Hannibal Crossed the Alps for a Folk DJ’s radio show.  I was enchanted: a perfect and accurate history lesson in song.  Since then, I’ve read about Cosy’s work in teaching young women about the traps of false standards of beauty, so while I am a devoted fan of her music, I am even more in awe of the woman herself.  For a second song, I recommend How Will the Center Hold for those who want power and The Land of 10,000 Mothers for something sweet.  I’ve been teaching myself Walk On:

You are warned: any road is long / You are warned: any road is hard / There’s a boatload of “good advice” / It’s better just to disregard

John Flynn. A powerful young man writing the songs of social conscience for a new generation, he writes of international and inter-personal politics — just go and check out his lyrics.  There are song samples on John’s website, but most are of his children’s songs.  (Parents: he’s got some great songs for the kids!)  I love all the tracks on John’s CDs, but if I had to pick just two for you to hear I’d go with Put Your Freedom Where Your Mouth Is off his Two Wolves CD and Minnie Lou off his Dragon CD.

Kim & Reggie Harris.  Each and every time I have heard Kim & Reggie, it was a transporting musical experience — live and powerful, it felt like I’d been to an opera with a full pit orchestra, but up on stage it is only Reggie with his magic guitar and Kim’s dynamic vocals: check out music samples from all their CDs here.  (I’d also like to brag here that Reggie once borrowed my guitar.)  You have never heard Follow the Drinking Gourd better than Reggie plays it on their CD Steal Away, and the song Too Many Martyrs (The Ballad of Medgar Evans) on the CD Rock of Ages is a personal favorite.  Their website also offers an exclusive audio file they recorded with Peter Yarrow and his daughter Bethany.  Kim and Reggie sing the title track on What’s That I Hear: The Songs of Phil Ochs — a CD guaranteed to knock your socks off.

Johnsmith.  All one word for the name but he uses a lot more of them in his songs, and the pictures he paints with his words, the stories he tells, are just right for someone whose children are grown and off on their own life travels.  This age, sometimes called the “empty nest,” is a time for reflection, remembrance, and renewals, and I hear all of that in John’s songs.  Personal favorite songs are Survivors — a meditation on trees — and Kickin’ This Stone, the title track of my favorite Johnsmith CD.

If you follow even one of the links here, I hope it has helped you discover a new musician, a new song, or the inspiration to write about your own favorite music.  I feel as though this is only the first installment in a series…