Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Kim and Reggie Harris – Resurrection Day

Resurrection Day

As I noted in a feature story I wrote for Sing Out! magazine (“Kim and Reggie Harris: Building Bridges,” Summer 2007), I’ve long been inspired by Kim and Reggie Harris – by their moving work as recording and performing artists and by the deep commitment they have as activists who use their art to help make ours a better society.

As they note in the booklet to Resurrection Day, much of this album was inspired by Reggie’s 13-year battle with an autoimmune disease – a battle he almost lost but overcame thanks to a liver transplant in 2008.

Reggie sings about his battle with the disease most explicitly in the contemplative title song. It’s not a religious resurrection he sings about – however much faith may have played a role in his recovery – it is literally a physical resurgence after “a long, long journey” filled with “pain so deep” he questioned, “Will I get over? Can I get over?” The questions are answered in the chorus, “Hallelujah! A new day is here/You’ve got a new race to run/Resurrection day, resurrection day.”

Several of the album’s other songs – both Reggie’s originals and material drawn from tradition or from other writers – allude metaphorically to moving forward in life and love. In Phil Ochs’ “Do What I Have to Do,” the narrator pledges to do what he has to do, to be what he has to be despite whatever obstacles might stand in his way. In “Here and Now With You,” a gentle, Brazilian-styled love song dedicated to Kim, Reggie sings about love supplying the force needed to overcome trial and distance. And in “It’s All About Love,” they sing about the combination of faith, trust and dedication which add up to love.

Among the album’s most poignant songs are “When Mom Left Us Here,” an expression of feelings at the loss of a parent, Matthew Jones’ “Tree of Life,” sung beautifully by Kim with gorgeous harmonies by a circle of friends recorded at the Old Songs Festival, and "Traffic," a topical song about slavery in our contemporary world.

Other highlights include the depression-era classic, “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum,” updated with a new last verse and rollicking zydeco arrangement to give it a contemporary feel, and the inspirational “Butterfly,” co-written by Reggie and producer Ken Whiteley, who sings it with them. (Kim and Reggie sang on Ken’s version of the song on his 2010 album, Another Day’s Journey.)

And, in this year of marking the centennial of Woody Guthrie’s birth, they end the album with “Roll On Woody,” a tribute to that most iconic of folksingers and songwriters.

As with all of Kim and Reggie’s albums, their voices frequently intertwine and support each other in glorious harmonies. Also, as with all of Kim and Reggie’s albums, they inspire with a message that we are all important and vital parts of a world that is so much bigger than any of us.

Pictured: Terry Leonino & Greg Artzner (Magpie), Kim & Reggie Harris, Pete Sutherland, Larry Penn, Utah Phillips and Mike Regenstreif at the 2005 Champlain Valley Folk Festival.

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--Mike Regenstreif

1 comment:

  1. I concur 100% and might add...this album is Grammy worthy! I have the CD and hadn't read the booklet inside but felt the title song "Resurrection Day" was a personal testimony of sorts...with Reggie's emotions woven into every lyric and musical note!(especially that acoustic guitar)
    I'll have to admit, when I hear Kim's voice start singin' "Straighten 'Em", I start smiling, 'cause I know she's gonna start identifying who's in the lineup to "straighten out"!
    Way to go Kim and Reggie!
    And btw, great blog post Mike!