Linda Allen,
The Long Way Home
(October Rose, 1999)

Linda Allen is a folk artist of the finest caliber. She may not be singing the traditional tunes and ballads usually attributed to folk singers, but she certainly writes and performs songs of and about people in such a way that the spirit of her music rings true to the genre. Extremely talented players accompany her both vocally and instrumentally. On the latest release of this CD, her daughters Jen and Kristi, proving that the talent in this family is multigenerational, accompany her; on the last piece, "Credo," Tracy Spring, Nancy Reitz and Marie Eaton join her on vocals also. The musicians supporting the vocals are also artists; they include Jim Nunally, Bill Douglass, Laura Smith, David MacVittie, David Lange, Julian Smedley, Jami Sieber and Linda herself. Get ready for a thoughtful and quite enjoyable wander down roads, if not less traveled, then unsung until now.

The title track is the first song on this journey, and it sets the tone very well. It describes life as a road that can be bumpy when one is less than enthusiastic about the traveling. "There Will Be An Answer" tells of the battle of faith and despair within us all. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves, receives the kudos for inspiring the next song of a woman who is seeking for something she knows not what. Like its predecessors on this disk, "Shadow of the Wolf" is a lovely and lyrical tale that will ring a note of familiarity in the audience. "Love Is A Stone" is about the discovery of love and its myriad facets and meanings that only time and experience can give.

"A Small Vase of Flowers," written by Linda in 1991 in response to a poem she had read and the conflicts in Iraq where thousands of children were dying every month, comes next. It is a mother's song of empathy to the heartaches of war. Laura Smith gave Linda inspiration with some phrases from a Wordsworth poem years ago for this song and is duly credited for it in the liner notes. "The Old Moon Rocks in the New Moon's Arms" is a lullaby for adults Allen says, and it is indeed peaceful and relaxing. Thanks Laura! Inspiration her next song came from her husband; Linda asked him about growing up in Iowa farm country and how the farmers dealt with drought and financial ruin. His reply of "They just get very quiet" brought about "The Drought," told from the point of view of a quiet man's wife. Its reality is heart-rending.

"The Healing of the Night" is a tender love ballad from a fresh perspective. "It Never Seemed Right" is about the caging of wild things, animals and others. The next song, "The Fall," is dedicated to sufferers of depression. It gives comfort to know that those of us who suffer from it are not as alone as we feel. This song is absolutely beautiful in imagery and message, a lovely gift. Her next number is set to the tune of a field recording of two Portuguese women singing a call-response work song. She provides the words for "Echo Song," but also requests any information on the original song. Her version is touching in its own right. "The Way the Wind Blew" is inspired by the reports on and testimony of those living near the Hartford Nuclear Plant. Its words and tone are achingly truthful. It is so much more than a protest song; the heartbreaking story is real. "Eve" is more speculative, but it feels true as well. The bright lyrics and upbeat music set the tone for a fairer retelling of the Garden of Eden story. It is high time a woman can hear the message that she is free to be a woman without the guilt of humanity on her shoulders. "The Bargain" is also a story from an unusual point of view. This ballad is about a woman who has to give up much of herself to fit in and be a good member of society. Like life, there is give and take a bittersweet irony. "Credo" is her final gift to the audience. It is deep, insightful, wise and wonderful. A good end to a great collection.

The Long Way Home takes unusual paths through lives of people, telling their often surprising stories in the traditional form of ballads. These cannot be simply labeled as protest songs or feminist songs; these are people songs. The music is as strong as the powerful vocals and lyrics. Linda has given us another excellent listening experience.

[ by Debbie Gayle Rose ]
Rambles: 21 October 2001

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