16 April 2001 -- Recorded in December of 1999 and 2000 at a series of benefit shows, Concerts For A Landmine Free World is a compilation featuring a standout collection of performers from the folk and country singer/songwriter world.
The purpose of the concerts and this resulting CD of highlights from the performances is to raise public awareness about the landmine situation which exists in many countries throughout the world.
Countries such as Cambodia and Mozambique have had a recent past filled with turmoil and war. Even though their wars have ended, landmines still litter the countryside, claiming innocent victims every day. From farmers working in fields to children merely walking on roads, members from all areas of the populace have stepped on leftover landmines, which either kill them or maim them. It has been calculated that every 22 minutes someone is killed by a landmine.
The Ottawa Convention was established to ban the use and production of landmines, but, as Emmylou Harris (pictured left) says,
"It's not enough to say we won't put anymore in the ground; we've got to get them out. It comes down to a basic courtesy, something you learn in kindergarten: You clean up after your mess when you're through. Until we do, these countries are going to be hostages. They're going to continue to live the war many, many years after peace has been declared." (The Washington Post, October 9, 1998).
Founded by Bobby Muller of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF), the Campaign For A Landmine Free World was organized to operate rehabilitation clinics, raise awareness, and educate the world public on the global landmine problem. Emmylou Harris spearheaded and initiated the series of concerts the cd is drawn from.
Bruce Cockburn was a natural choice, as he has been involved in the landmine issue for a number of years, first in Mozambique, where he has travelled, and more recently in Cambodia, where, he says
"The cities are full of people begging who are missing limbs, or blinded, or horribly disfigured by contact with mines. They're very visible because there's no other way they can survive. ... The mines constitute not just a problem for a person who has encountered them or his or her family, but a problem for the country as a whole. All they can do is beg. ... It doesn't matter what side of the political ring you stand on. It's a humanitarian issue." (Burlington Free Press, November 30, 2000).
Not quite the typical album one would expect a "protest" album against landmines to be, Bruce's is the only song that addresses the issue in any way. There are other socially concerned songs, such as Nanci Griffith's "It's A Hard Life", which speaks against racism and a song about drugs ("Morphine" by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings), but still, perhaps not the album you would expect.
That's not to say it's a bad group of songs. The performances are all top-notch and sincere, some even humorous (John Prine's "Big Ol' Goofy World"). Besides, would we want a CD of only dour protest songs? Probably not, and in a way, this diversity of subject matter is a strength of the album. It just doesn't always work in the context of the compilation- Mary Chapin Carpenter's "This Shirt" does not flow well into "Mines of Mozambique".
The majority of the album skews a little toward the country side, as is to be expected from the roster of artists. "Mines of Mozambique" further stands out (besides being the only landmine-oriented song on the album) because of this. This version of the song was recorded at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California on December 1, 1999 and, while not a remarkable version, is a good solid one, featuring Bruce accompaning himself on acoustic guitar.
Most of the performances are solo by the artist, as the show setup was a revolving "trading off" format- one performer would do a song, then the next performer, and so on. Some of the standout tracks include the aforementioned "Morphine" which has a sad, slow-rolling old time western feel and "The Pearl" by Emmylou Harris, which is a quiet, aching song delivered as a sort of gospel hymn. Steve Earle's "Christmas in Washington" is the final song on the album and features all the performers joining in on the chorus, imploring for the return of Woody Guthrie (perhaps to put more protest into the album?).
A portion of the profits made by sales of the CD will benefit the Campaign For A Landmine Free World. But, even if this were not so, it is a worthwhile addition to any cd collection.