by Mitch Myers
Proceeds from this CD go to the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund’s campaign to save wild salmon, ancient forests and free-flowing waterways all across the land. The record has a strong blues feel and holds together as a unified piece of work. While this collection contains several older songs taken from other albums, there are original performances that make it unique. The previously unreleased version of "Take Me to the River" by Bob Weir’s Ratdog (with Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica) is essential listening for all you rabid Deadheads. New performances from such ecologically committed artists as J.J. Cale, Mavis Staples and bluesman Alvin Youngblood Hart are also top-notch. The older material here is sonically engaging as well as environmentally instructive. Ani DiFranco’s "Fuel" is an offbeat rap with a righteous message, while Loudon Wainwright III’s "Hard Day on the Planet" questions authority without a trace of malice. One of the more interesting selections is a performance from 1968 by singer Tracy Nelson, called "Mother Earth," featuring the late Mike Bloomfield on guitar. Keb’ Mo’ moans and wails on "Victims of Comfort," and Robert Cray checks in with a tough live version of "The Forecast (Calls for Pain)." There are also some expressive artistic collaborations here, including John Hammond supporting John Lee Hooker, and Branford Marsalis jamming with guitarist Joe Louis Walker. Earth mother Etta James is left to close things out with a version of the Eagles’ "Take it to the Limit" and the message is clear: Save the planet!