[5 July 2009]
Maine’s Buck and Shanti Curran, in addition to their considerable energy and touring as Arborea, have somehow found the time to curate and produce an exceptional not-for-profit compilation whose entire proceeds will be donated to the World Food Program and Not on Our Watch agencies, “to help fight hunger and disease, and support human rights efforts in Africa”. Composed of an embarrassment of riches of nearly 20 tracks by artists both as simpatico and diverse as Devendra Banhart, Alela Diane, Citay, and Magic Leaves, Leaves of Life is not only a sparkling representation of contemporary exploratory folk music, but it’s for a good cause. Highlights of the album include Larkin Grimm’s exquisitely structured “The Butcher”, its lilting melodies paired with lines like “I asked the butcher if he ever felt dismayed / Counting organs in the body when the flesh is stripped away.” Micah Blue Smaldone’s “The Clearing” is a breathlessly rolling ramble that demands attention to every word. Portland, Maine’s Cursillistas turn in the echo-chamber “Mothers Taught”, while Marissa Nadler and Black Hole Infinity is welcome addition to her growing, impressive body of work. At around the 75-minute mark, Leaves of Life presents a deep pile to rustle through or dive into, to gain exposure to artists both well-known and unknown, and a way to send some assistance to a part of our world in dire need of it.