You could hear a pin drop as everyone listened and was touched by the combination of words, flute interludes and an electric bass beat. Just before intermission Bev Grant joined Sharleen for a finale. The two women sang a song about Harriet Tubman. The combination of their voices created such heat that it left everyone wanting more. Bev Grant completed the second half of the show with a interesting blend of women's voices. This was a performance I am thankful not to have missed.
Pre-release Rumors of Peace Concert
Peoples Voice Café
WHAT WOULD WOODY SAY?
Woody Guthrie spoke plain
About deportees and dust bowl days...
So what would Woody write?
Right now . . . in these hard times
That’s the sobering, yet enticing question that activist-songwriter Sharleen Leahey raises in her new CD, Rumors of Peace. What would the “Poet of the People” who sang about plain folks’ hard lives during the Great Depression make of America today? With dobro, fiddle and guitar pickin’, reelin’ and strummin’ bluegrass, folk, country and gospel airs, Leahey offers her take on the times in a foot-thumping tribute to Guthrie:
Now it’s time to speak plain About bailed-out bankers having their way
While families are forced to move People sick and tired of being attacked
Are standing up trying to fight back... But the boss is getting richer as we go broke
They’re taking our jobs And our homes and our hope Say Woody... has that much really changed?
In another song on the CD, “Corporate News,” she lambasts
CNN & Fox – talking heads who shock
Fair & balanced they declare
Dissenting voices kicked off the air
Leahey lets loose, knowing she won’t be invited to appear on any mainstream television talk show any time soon. And neither will anyone else who doesn’t improve the corporate bottom line. Her chorus line to that damning fact goes:
And you know the rich men break the rules
And oooh how they pull the wool
And they think we’re fools
Democracy is what we lack
Free speech has been hijacked!
Other songs on her new CD address a vision for peace in the Middle East (Jerusalem – a cover written by Steve Earle), embracing the wonders of Nature (Wonder) and opening to personal and planetary change (Direction).
Sharleen Leahey, who grew up in New York City and is now based in Central New Jersey, gets around with her guitar and her protest songs to places where the corporate-branded and approved entertainers on TV talk and squawk shows haven’t a clue as to what’s going on. Like Woody Guthrie Sharleen takes what she’s got to say to people at the grassroots, singing at peace demonstrations, teach-ins, conferences, fairs, coffeehouses, bookstores, libraries and churches. A photo caption describing her acceptance of the Peace Patriot Award from the Coalition for Peace Action in Princeton, NJ last July succinctly captured her spirit: “For many years Sharleen has organized and performed at countless rallies, vigils and events to call attention to our urgent need to end our nation’s wars and occupations overseas and address our crises here at home.” A couple of generations back, that kind of talk would have gotten a songwriter summoned to a grilling by the House Un-American Activities Committee. These days, it’s an invitation to join a picket line in front of the White House—as Leahey did at a recent Occupy Washington protest march.
To join Sharleen’s mailing list, listen to songs or for more information: www.rumorsofpeace.net.
Jan Barry is a poet, journalist, teacher, author and editor of several books, including A Citizen's Guide to Grassroots Campaigns, Earth Songs: New and Selected Poems and Winning Hearts & Minds: War Poems by Vietnam Veterans. For more information on Jan’s writing and workshops visit: www.janbarry.net.
To Read or Print