September 2001

Concerts for a Landmine Free World
Vanguard 79579-2
Released: 2001

by David J. Cantor

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

[Reviewed on CD]The Campaign for a Landmine Free World was founded in 1998 by the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF). After traveling to Cambodia and Vietnam with VVAF president Bobby Muller and witnessing results of the landmine tragedy -- the devices cripple over 26,000 people each year in over one-third of the world’s countries -- performer, songwriter, and Grammy Award winner Emmylou Harris organized Concerts for a Landmine Free World. The series of performances took place in December 1999 and December 2000.

Harris was joined in performance by a wide range of contemporary performers who have donated their royalties to the Campaign: John Prine, Guy Clark & Verlon Thompson, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bruce Cockburn, Nanci Griffith, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Patty Griffin, Kris Kristofferson, Terry Allen, and Steve Earle. Vanguard Records, which distributes the album, has also donated a portion of its royalties to the Campaign.

Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn’s "The Mines of Mozambique" is the only song on the CD that directly addresses the landmine problem. He briefly speaks about the ordeal of people living among landmines before introducing the song. The song clocks in at over six minutes, but Cockburn skillfully carries the listener along with a quick and compelling repeated acoustic guitar riff. He addresses the audience in a long bridge spoken above the riff.

Harris’s "The Pearl," which opens the album, is a melodic and original song, well suited to her relaxed singing style. It is dedicated to peace among human beings -- when "we behold the pain become the pearl" -- if not specifically to eliminating landmines. Unfortunately, her voice is very hoarse in this rendition. Nanci Griffith’s "It’s a Hard Life" makes a plea for an end to hatred among people: "And if we poison our children with hatred / Then a hard life will be all that they’ll know."

Terry Allen co-wrote "Wilderness of This World" with David Byrne of Talking Heads. Allen introduces the song by pointing out that when you’re out on the highway, you will typically see one shoe beside the road -- never two.

Most of the CD’s tracks are strong, but a small part of the favorable "overall enjoyment" rating is due to the social consciousness the performers exhibit, transcending the occasional clumsy harmony or flubbed instrumental passage. This consciousness is nicely captured in the finale, Steve Earle’s "Christmas in Washington"; some of the refrains go, "So come back, Woody Guthrie…," "So come back, Emma Goldman …," and "… rise up, old Joe Hill…." Additional information on the landmine disaster is available at or 800-BAN-MINES.