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Fly on, Angels
Lyonhart joins musicians to play for Haitian relief
By Gary Alexander
The Woodstock Times. February 25, 2010

Is it just me? Comes late February in shifting shades of winter grey and a longing for signs of Spring swells to a level wherein I find myself missing even the pesky ants of summer!

Relief from weighty debits of cabin fever, however, arrives this weekend in the form of a gala event and a worthy cause when a Benefit for the People of Haiti begins at 3 p.m. at the Woodstock Reformed Church on the Village Green and continues until 9 p.m., leaving us plenty of time to stop in, say hi to our season-pallored neighbors and catch some of the action.

Present will be Terry and Pierre Leroy from the Haitian People's Support Project (HPSP, which sponsors five orphanages and over 400 children in the impoverished nation) and a dazzling array of talent which features, in no particular order, Anique Taylor, Bar Scott, Charles Lyonhart & the Junkyard Angels, E.C. Lorick, Ellie Wininger & Dave Kearny, Julie Last, Julie Parisi Kirby & T.G. Vanini, Michael Veitch, Mighty Xee, Prana, Rennie Cantine, Sylvia Bullet and, certainly not least, - (Karen) Whitman & (Richard) Pantell. (Okay, I fibbed. about the order but only because a schedule of appearance times wasn't available).

Charles Lyonhart, to highlight just one of this parade of performers, will be playing selections from "Outside Looking In", a newly released album sporting the high polish of an extended production period with perfectionist placements (and the complimenting flavors of a well-planned feast) by Julie Last at Cold Brook Productions, who has worked with artist from Neil Young to Rickie Lee Jones and who will provide vocal accompaniment for a band which also features bassist George Quinn and Brian Hollander. A portion of the proceeds from sales of this exceptional recording will be donated to the Haiti project.

Among a wealth of peak points on the album, the atmospheric "Ramble in the Pale Moonlight," celebrates Levon Helms' series of down-home Woodstock concerts and his triumphant struggle with a health calamity as seismic as the one which challlenged Lyonhart's own life before a liver transplant evaded a cancerous assault. Overcoming catastrophic afflictions is the motivation animating this event and the song, co-written with the band's bass player. George Quinn, underlines a raison d'etre for the effort of survival in all the good times still ahead. A delightful filigree appears midway with a few brief vocal lines from Quinn and Teresa Williams lacing subtly in like a warm glow on the horizon.

The core of the Junkyard Angels Band was initiated via a gig at one of Levon's Rambles a couple of years ago and Levon's daughter, Amy Helm, furnishes vocal harmony for "If You Got A Heart," which contends with "Orphan In A Stormmfor the most country-tinted tune on the album; the latter ironically so because it reflects Lyonhart' outsider childhood in the streets and foster homes of the Bronx where the art of "fitting in" was a constant trial. A theme of mortality runs beneath the album like a telluric undercurrent of association, with the broodingly powerful title ballad summing it up by revisiting the deaths of three close friends (Mindy Jostyn, John Herald, and an unidentified friend named "David") in a close time-frame as his own life hung in the balance. An inspiring song for those who have lost someone close or is facing the impending death of a loved one enters in as "Fly on Angel", written for Charles' sister, Julie Lishoff, whose whose last chapter was closed at age 49 by lymphoma three years ago in August and who lived to applaud the song on her deathbed. Lifted by Larry Packer's string contributions and Chris Zaloom's exquisitely guided note-work. the tune sprouts a virtual garden of flowing melodic support against Dennis Cotton" transporting rhythms.

Lighter moments come with the discovery of romance ("The Dream"- co-written with Lincoln Schleifer, who also co-wrote a song about recovery here called "I Came Back") and a wedding song with the rare grace of avoiding the stain of cliche ("I Do"). Meanwhile "It's Over" redeems the bitterness of endings with the strength of individual determination and a lively Zaloom-penned tune called "Royal Ball" is wound with mysterious allusions but a clue to the "royalty" might be found in the line "how loose he played his royal wild cards" — and, again, the reference is to a departed mutual friend of Chris and Charles, Marty David.

Lyonhart confides that "Judgment Day" has nothing to do with a book of poems he was writing as he lay dying several years ago except for sharing a title with a song as dose to a social "protest" as he has yet ventured. "Judgement Day" makes a few judgments of its own about a nation coming apart at the seams which has too frequently already been referred to in past-tense by some of today's essayists as a "noble experiment" — devoured, no doubt, by corporate overlords and the recent stunning disregard for the peasants of the land by a certain high court (which shall remain nameless since I'm not sure if I can still afford an opinion about it.)

Beyond a strikingly elegant design by artist Eeo Stubblefield, the record boasts a marshaling of superb musicians which includes renown fiddlers Larry Packer and Larry Campbell; ace guitarist Chris Zaloom; bassist Lincoln Scheifer; keyboardists Pete Levin and Pat Robinson; percussionist Dennis Cotton and vocalists Teresa Williams and Kirsti Gholson, among others.

Funds will be divided between HPSP and Partners In Health (which has over 20 years experience in supplying health aid in Haiti.) If you can't make a personal appearance but wish to contribute, google Haitian Support Project.org or send a check to Haitian Peoples Support Project at P.O. Box 496, Woodstock, NY, 12498.

New Charles Lyonhart CD coming in 2017. Stay tuned here for details.

Check out all the articles I write for the Woodstock Times, on the HudsonValleyOne website.

Live video of me performing "Leap of Faith" at a Benefit Concert in Rhinebeck against the Dakota Pipeline with George Quinn on upright bass and Brian Hollander on dobro. November 19, 2016.

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