Fish Trees Water Blues

Putting together a musically coherent compilation of more than a dozen disparate artists working within the blues is no easy task. The producers of "Fish Trees Water Blues" accomplish the challenge by allowing elder statesmen and -women like John Lee Hooker and gospel singer Mavis Staples to rub elbows with younger upstarts like punk folkie Ani DiFranco and bluesman Keb' Mo'. The compilation serves a righteous cause: All proceeds go to the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund's Fish-Trees-Water campaign, which preserves wild salmon, ancient forests and clean waterways. In good conscience, each artist contributes an ecologically or socially conscious track that reminds listeners that there's more to life than creature comforts.DiFranco's funkified "Fuel" takes on media overload, while Staple's soul-stirring "I'll Fly Away" looks to far more ethereal realms. Laid-back '70s songwriter J.J. Cale's "Stone River" ponders a desolate world without water or vegetation ("What used to be a stream/Is now just a dream"). Blues guitarist Alvin Youngblood Hart uses mandolin and old-timey instrumental "Rollin' River" to draw a bucolic sketch. Like any blues CD worth owning, this one has moments of great guitar playing: Joe Louis Walker's burning fretwork on "The Road You Choose" works well with accompaniment by saxophonist Branford Marsalis; and John Hammond and John Lee Hooker smolder together on "Drifting Blues." Ruth Brown, Robert Cray, Tracy Nelson, Roomful of Blues and Loudon Wainwright III all add their considerable voices to the project as well. Only Charlie Musselwhite and Bob Weir's version of "Take Me to the River" and Etta James' cover of the Eagles' "Take It to the Limit" -- in both cases, artists working with material they should probably avoid -- seem watered-down. The rest of "Fish Trees Water Blues" flows quite nicely.REQUIRED TAG: This review originally appeared on Salon, an online magazine at www.salonmagazine.com.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close
alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.