various artists,
Before Their Time:
Memorial Songs & Music, Vol. II

(Hospice VNH, 2002)

This is a dream CD that is born out of a nightmare situation. The list of why it is so good is not in any particular order because every individual who gets it will have different priorities.

• It contains some of the most heartfelt lyrics and music you are likely to hear.

• It combines well-known performers with relative unknowns.

• It supports a very worthy cause.

• It is used to assist people in their hour of greatest need.

• It provides not only the lyrics of each track but also explains the genesis of the composition.

• It is good enough to stand without any of the above reasons.

Before Their Time II was produced to benefit a number of charities in New Hampshire, which deal with grief and sudden death, but I truly believe that if you listen to this CD you will buy it because it is a classic and helping others will be an added bonus.

From "Sand & Water" by Beth Neilsen Chapman to Eva Cassidy's version of "Over the Rainbow," anyone with a heart and an appreciation of good writing will be spellbound.

"Sand & Water," like most tracks, was written for a person who had died, in this case Chapman's husband. It is a moving song but is not maudlin. Her grief is transformed into some beautiful lyrics that may be sung as a simple love song by others who never knew the background. "I will see you in the light of a thousand suns, I will hear you in the sound of the waves.”

Not all the tracks have vocals. "Til I See You Again" is a fantastically beautiful piece by Jim Wilson that tells its story without the need of words. Another instrumental piece of note is "An Air for Mary Tipton" written by Connie Dover for her grandmother.

"Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth" is a song by Cindy Bullens that was written following the death of her young daughter.

One of the better-known performers on the CD is the English folk singer Kate Rusby. Her song "Who Will Sing Me Lullabies?" was written following the death of her friend and first love Davy Steel. It is a beautiful sentiment expressed with love and understanding that is ideally suited to Kate's voice.

Back in the 1970s there was a pop song called "19" that referred to the average age of soldiers killed in Vietnam. On this album we get a track titled "29," which encapsulates the effects of the death of any young person. Singer-songwriter Slaid Cleves tells us that two people who had great influences on him inspired it: Manuel Verzosa, who encouraged him as a young performer in Portland, Maine, and Hank Williams. Both died young in automobile accidents enroute to perform.

One of my personal favourites on this CD is "Down to a River" by Connie Kaldor. It is sub-titled "Alan's Song" and was written on returning from her friend's funeral. "I'll go down to a river and plant a tree, something strong, wild and living -- those are my memories.”

Jez Lowe, who I consider to be one of the finest folk musicians performing today, contributes his "Last of the Widows." Eva Cassidy closes the album with her powerful version of the song from The Wizard of Oz, "Over the Rainbow." Her own tragic death "before her time” is a poignant note.

The CD booklet also contains some poems that are an added bonus.

I will not ask anyone to purchase this CD to support a worthy cause -- buy it to enjoy great music and songs -- helping others is a bonus. My one regret is that I missed Before Their Time.

If you have difficulty getting this CD you should contact www.beforetheirtime.org.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 31 August 2002



Buy it from Amazon.com.