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Music Review: 'Give US Your Poor'

All-star cast of artists contribute to fight against homelessness

By Adam Miller
Epoch Times Kansas Staff
Sep 24, 2007

Artists unite to fight homelessness with the album
Artists unite to fight homelessness with the album ""Give US Your Poor" Applesed Recorodings"

Appleseed Recordings and Give US Your Poor, a UMass Boston organization based in policy studies, have teamed up together to create a new album, 17 recordings to help end homelessness. The album is appropriately titled, Give US Your Poor and is due out September 25th. Songs come from popular musicians as well as currently and previously homeless musicians.

Celebrity artists include Jon Bon Jovi, Natalie Merchant, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, Sonya Kitchell, Bonnie Raitt, among others. Actors Danny Glover and Tim Robbins contribute with spoken word segments.

Two years in the making, Give US Your Poor was created to raise public awareness and funds to help end the tragedy of homelessness.

Seeds for the album were first planted when John McGah, Director of Give US Your Poor, and Mark Governor, Hollywood musician and film scorer, joined forces to discuss plans for a soundtrack on a documentary on homelessness. Mark mentioned the idea of bringing together celebrity artists and homeless musicians. "It took one second to jump on the idea," says McGah.

Appleseed Recordings mission statement states: Folk music has been closely associated with the struggle for social justice. This album does not fall short one bit, and is loaded full of folk sounds, blues, spoken word, and all-around-soulful-contributions about the trials homeless people face on a daily basis.

From the inspirational "Show Me the Way" that Jon Bon Jovi and Grammy-nominated, Mighty Sam McClain perform together—"a religious hymnal, if you will" says Bon Jovi—to "There is No Good Reason," a song written by 15 year old Nichole Cooper who was homeless in Minnesota at the time, each song provides a sad and honest story as well as a glimmer of hope and a calling for togetherness.

In fact, "There is No Good Reason," answers this call in full force as Natalie Merchant and six homeless musicians from 5 different states come together in a major way.

Some of the musicians left sick family members behind in order to unite for the song and the cause. Merchant says, "The time we all spent together yielded an incredible recording of the song that is powerfully moving, honest and soulful."

Appleseed Recordings is a major independent record label, headed by Jim Musselman an activist attorney who has worked closely in the past on many social justice issues with Ralph Nader.

According to Appleseed, "The majority of the profits raised by Give US Your Poor will be spent, on the national level, in pushing for legislation and awareness/action programs designed to stem the growing crisis of homelessness, and, on the local level, to fund homeless shelters. All of the professional musicians involved donated their time and are waiving artists' royalties for contributions."

When Give US Your Poor volunteers first spread the word about the album the response was overwhelming. 755 submissions of heartfelt songs flooded in. John McGah, Director of Give US Your Poor, describes the process of listening and choosing from the many artist submissions: "We felt like custodians of sacred recordings and we tried to treat them as such."

Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger connect for a rendition of the folk classic, "Hobo's Lullaby." Really, the whole project is a folk lullaby, with multi-genred tidbits scattered throughout, keeping the album fresh and interesting.

Included are characteristics of rock (Buffalo Tom), blues (Keb' Mo'), jazz (Madeleine Peyroux and Sonya Kitchell), a cappella (Sweet Honey in the Rock), gospel (Jon Bon Jovi and Mighty Sam McClain), and even opera (Mario Frangoulis).

Give US Your Poor includes a 28-page booklet, revealing the stories behind the music as well as providing statistics about homelessness. Examples are: "Homeless shelters turned down 37 percent of individuals due to overcrowding, 41 percent of all homeless are families, One of four homeless is a child under the age of ten," and "43 percent of the homeless work."

Listening to Give US Your Poor is not only enjoyable, but also educational. It has a little something for everyone, and as a consumer, it feels good to know where the proceeds will go. The lyrics are socially conscious and sad.

Yet, hearing Madeleine Peyroux sing in her lovely way, "human kindness is overflowing, and I think it's going to rain today," is truly uplifting, and shows that Give US Your Poor is a musical contribution offering up real solutions based on John McGah's straight philosophy: "Homelessness is about disconnection. Music is about connection. It's pretty simple."