Music Rags: Honour the earth, one song at a time

Neil Young & Crazy Horse – “Mother Earth”

Screaming out of the gate with a one-minute-plus guitar solo that sounds like it could belong in any Olympic opening ceremony, “Mother Earth” is a true anthem for our planet. Neil and his Crazy Horse cohorts use wonderful harmonies to encourage all to rethink how they treat our home. “Respect Mother Earth and her giving ways/Or trade away our children’s days.”

Sarah Harmer – “Escarpment Blues”

Ontario’s Sarah Harmer brings her achingly delicate voice to this track depicting the ongoing and dangerous pillaging of the Niagara Escarpment that runs from New York through Ontario to Illinois. The Escarpment connects many of the residents of these areas and is being systematically blasted for minerals, poisoning its water and ecosystems. “Escarpment Blues” is a beautiful little folk tune that brought my awareness to this ongoing problem.

Xavier Rudd – “Messages”

Xavier Rudd’s gentle slide guitar weaves its way forward while he sings of the need for awareness as Earth continues to go through the changes human beings have wrought upon it. Though the song acknowledges that we have indeed forced much of this change, no anger or preachiness come across.

Mos Def – “New World Water”

Many social prognosticators foresee the wars of the future being fought over water, but listening to Mos Def’s scathing “New World Water,” one might think that the war had already begun. A thoughtful treatise on the state of water in developing countries and the wastefulness of water use in developed nations, this track does what great hip-hop should: it tears the listener between wanting to groove and wanting to think.

Dave Matthews Band – “One Sweet World”

Nothing less than a celebration of the many great things that the Earth bestows on us, “One Sweet World” is a rousing, joyous paean to our dear Mother. While the music is as complex as anything you’re likely to hear, the lyrics are beautiful in their simplicity, portraying the wonder and comfort that comes from communing with nature.

John Butler – “Ocean”

Few artists have such a deep connection to nature so audible in all their music. John Butler has always been a soldier for the planet, and this song has been the most powerful in his arsenal since his humble busking beginnings. Armed with only his guitar, Butler builds a soundscape that does an incredible job of recreating the unpredictability of the ocean’s waves. It’s a truly arresting display of guitar mastery.

Woody Guthrie – “This Land is your Land”

Does this really need any description? “This Land Is Your Land” has been emblazoned into the collective consciousness of everyone who has heard it since it was released in 1949. The song’s perfect simplicity has kept it a staple of protest singers for years, and it’s hard to imagine its impact being lessened as more change is forced upon our Earth.

Cake – “Carbon Monoxide”

Like many of Cake’s songs, the seriousness of the subject matter (the poisoning of our air through our excessive use of vehicles) is undercut by the almost wacky sound of the music and singer John McCrea’s deadpan delivery. But one listen to the words he has laid down over the choppy guitar chords, and you can’t help but feel the serious tone. “After car after bus after car after truck/After this my lungs will be so fucked up.”

Frank Ocean – “Nature Feels”

“Nature Feels” is all about that most wonderful of activities — fornicating in the bliss of nature. It’s an incredible feat: Ocean takes something as innocent as enjoying nature and makes it wonderfully dirty, singing, “Baby girl, tell me how my nature feels.”

Michael Franti & Spearhead – “Cool Water”

Only available on the limited print Live in Alaska, this track finds Franti and his bandmates in full relaxation mode as they groove with acoustic guitars, electric slide and gently hushed drums that recreate the feeling of sitting on the shore on a beautiful summer day. Franti’s signature simple-but-evocative lyrics are on full display as he compares the love of his life to that most refreshing of things: cool water.

Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Green River”

A rollicking ode to the land of John Fogerty’s childhood — specifically Putah Creek, located in Northern California — “Green River” finds Fogerty and co. looking back on days of bullfrogs, catfish, barefoot girls and tree swings. The song captures the restless energy of youth in the summer, bounding through fields and riverbeds, living for nothing but earthly pleasure.

Jack Johnson – “The 3 Rs”

A kids’ song that’s fun for everyone, “The 3 Rs” is a silly little track that covers the three Rs — Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Built on “Three is a Magic Number” from Schoolhouse Rock!, the song has a classic feel that makes it easy to digest for nearly every listener. As a kids’ song, it’s also a perfect primer to get our young friends interested in what they can do to help our Earth.

Greg Brown – “Spring Wind”

Greg Brown’s thoughtful treatise on aging is heavy with his deep, abiding love of the environment. Whether he’s comparing himself and his love to “hippies in a tent” or professing his affinity for rivers and fishing, Brown gives one compelling reason after another for all us to ponder what it is about Earth that gives us that calm, relaxed feeling that it does.

Tom Jones – “Green, Green Grass of Home”

As we all lose more of our Earth to urban growth, the small pockets of nature we grew up around become more precious. This lazy country/gospel track finds Jones coming back to his hometown, comforted by old friends like oak trees and his old sweetheart, Mary, running down the road. The music amplifies the bittersweet feeling in Jones’ voice as he realizes that none of this wonderful nostalgia that he’s feeling is real. “Then I awake and look around me/At four grey walls that surround me/And I realize, yes, I was only dreaming.”

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