Lampedusa: for readers, the name of the author of The Leopard.
Lampedusa: for tourists and beach-lovers, the largest of the Italian Pelagie Islands in the Mediterranean Sea.
Lampedusa: for refugees, an island halfway between Sicily and the Libyan coast, a frequent destination for immigrants from Africa. In 2013, a shipwreck off the island killed 368 migrants. That did nothing to stop the boats delivering refugees.
Lampedusa: a series of benefit concerts featuring (in New York) Emmylou Harris, Robert Plant, Joan Baez, Steve Earle, Buddy Miller and the Milk Carton Kids — a lineup of alt-country musical talent equivalent to the 1927 New York Yankees.
Bruce Springsteen: “All the hype in the world is nothing compared to one kid saying, ‘Man, you shoulda seen that.”
Last night, at Town Hall, I sat in the third row. I was that kid. But thanks to video, I can take you there.
I’ve written about everyone on this tour but the Milk Carton Kids, so I’m going to link to those pieces — if you don’t know these artists, here’s a primer. And them there are videos, many from the Town Hall concert, courtesy of a history-minded fan.
First, one bit of context. Yeah, the election. These are performers whose politics are compassion and inclusion. Appropriate, therefore, that the host and team leader was Emmylou Harris, a white-haired symbol of purity who has more than enough cred to lead an angel band.
“Love Hurts” is a song associated with Harris and Gram Parsons, who died young. For his audition, Buddy Miller was asked to sing it with her. They’ve been singing it together ever since.
Was Robert Plant ever the voice of Led Zeppelin? On some other planet, in some other time. Two decades ago, he discovered Americana and became a convert. Craggy as Father Time, he seems to be working not at all. But every song was indelible.
Buddy Miller is a personal favorite — he and his wife sang at our wedding. The line on him is that he’s the best guitarist in Nashville. At Town Hall, he was also the best in New York.
Steve Earle is that rude friend with a big heart, a dirty mouth and a golden pen. He was in jail once and denied music. When he was allowed a guitar, this is the first song he wrote:
And, of course, he sang “City of Immigrants.” And of course, we all cheered, because “Everyone is everyone” is a message you don’t hear often enough this season.
At the end, Joan Baez came on, icing on the cake, and sang a Woody Guthrie song.
The show ended, as it has throughout the tour, with “Pilgrim,” a song Steve Earle wrote for a funeral. Here it was a song of affirmation.
All-time top 10? Yes. It was one of those nights.
The Milk Carton Kids — Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale — were new to most of us. Charming. Supremely talented.
This article originally appeared on The Head Butler
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Photo courtesy of jrsusa.org