REVIEWS: Music

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1997:

Adventures at Catfish Pond
Bob “Catfish” Hodge

All Spirits Sing
Joanne Shenandoah

Penguin Parade
Banana Slug String Band

If A Tree Falls
Anthology produced by
Darryl Cherney & Leib Ostrow

Music for Little People/EarthBeat
(POB 1460, Redway, CA 95560),
1997. Each $9.95/cassette, $15.98/CD.

As a college student, Delilah
Cooper infiltrated an early false front for the
wise-use movement, documented the then hidden
identities of the people behind it, and sent
the information to the editor of ANIMAL
PEOPLE. When we disclosed those identities,
the organization vanished almost
overnight, without a forwarding address.


Cooper is still exposing well-kept
secrets, now as publicity director for Music
for Little People/EarthBeat. One such secret is
that animal rights/environmental music doesn’t
have to be painful––or politically correct.
Another is that it can be commercial successful,
even if it doesn’t crack the Top 40. Yet
another is that it doesn’t have to be rock-androll.
You can call the Music for Little
People/EarthBeat list primarily folk, with a
dash of other styles. Either way, it’s music to
be played at moderate volume, and you’ll
want to catch the lyrics, perhaps sing along.
Wolf Clifton, just turning seven as
this edition goes to press, is our resident children’s
music critic. His favorite among the
four albums here reviewed seems to be A l l
Spirits Sing, Oneida Mohawk singer and storyteller
Joanne Shenandoah’s account of how
she found her voice, through a spontaneous
vision quest which involves garnering wisdom
from a wolf, a “tise old wurtle,” the moon, a
river, and two bears. Her gentle narrative is
true to both Mohawk tradition and the universal
experience of awkward adolescence. Her
words, spoken in a spirit of self-revelation,
sharing, and kinship with all species, may
help many through similar passages.
Wolf has also played Adventures at
Catfish Pond over and over. Apparent references
to fishing jar the mood of those aware
that fish feel pain as much as mammals and
birds, but otherwise it’s hard to find fault with
Bob Hodge’s “Endangered Species Orchestra,”
as Bull Rat, Raccoon, Turkey, and Tailgator
join the Catfish in cooking pancakes for every
hungry critter in the swamp. None of the animals
are actually officially endangered. When
Bull Rat and Turkey dispute their status,
Hodge explains the importance of protecting
habitat for all critters. Proceeding to extoll the
virtues of fruit, Hodge may even be joking
about the fishing, since he is the Catfish and
chocolate doughnuts are the bait.
Penguin Parade offers a fairly
mainstream medley, in which animals are
song subjects, but animal issues and animal
nature are not a presence. Wolf considers it
easy listening, okay for a while, but much
less inspirational and compelling than the two
other Music for Little People titles.
If A Tree Falls, a medley for adults
on the theme of saving old growth forest,
includes contributions from Buffy SainteMarie,
who sounds just like she did 25 years
ago, The Wyrd Sisters, who apparently unintentionally
resemble the National Lampoon
parody of Joan Baez, and Robert Hoyt, who
renders but unfortunately does not clear-cut
and woodchip the Joyce Kilmer paen “Trees.”
Just as one wonders where Monte Python is
when needed, to break up the deathly seriousness
with a ditty about transvestite lumberjacks,
Jello Biafra and Mojo Nixon take off on
Jerry Lee Lewis in “Where Are We Gonna
Work When The Trees Are Gone?”, catching
the same subtext about male ego and self-identity
in their refrain, “I’m a man, I’m a man,
I’m a lumberjack man.” The Tinklers reprise
country/western salvation dirges with “Trees
Like To Rot In The Forest.“ Then producer
Darryl Cherney chimes in with “You Can’t
Clearcut Your Way To Heaven,” the richest
burlesque of Grand Ole Opry since 1974,
when Bobby Bare cut “Drop Kick Me, Jesus.”
Music for Little People/EarthBeat
albums are distributed by Rhino Records, the
independent powerhouse in the field of offlabel
oldies but goodies. That means you can
order them through any major cassette/CD distributor.

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