One of the most intriguing things about the future is you never know when it is going to start.
Take for instance, the case of Michigan-based folk singers Joe Kidd and Sheila Burke. Each was already well established both as a musician and as a citizen of this Earth when a chance meeting at a fundraiser for a sick friend changed everything.
As Kidd recounts, his first thought on hearing Burke, an accomplished practitioner of roots music, was “Who is this woman?”
Unbeknownst to either, she was about to become his new musical partner. A second encounter at an event dedicated to acoustic music resulted in Kidd inviting Burke to sit in on a song that eventually would be featured on their first album together, “Soldiers in The Army of Mercy and Peace.”
As Burke put it “from there things just clicked. It was really interesting to find a kindred spirit; someone who could finish your sentences and finish your songs. We just shared the concept of getting back to basics.”
The duo gained early popularity, winning Detroit Music Awards in 2013 and 2104 as World Music Songwriters of the Year. Kidd and Burke were also nominated for three Detroit Music Awards and two Review Awards in 2015 & 16.
The recognition of their work took a step up when the original collaboration, “Soldiers in The Army of Mercy and Peace,” now featured on the full length album “Everybody Has a Purpose,” was awarded the Global Music Award for Song of the Year.
For aficionados of music before the Beatles, “Everybody Has a Purpose” has a lot to like. A modern take on original folk music; the duo plays it true to the style, with earnest renditions of twelve original songs.
Simple, sparse arrangements with acoustic guitar, a smattering of traditional instruments and hand percussion support the wonderfully sung messages of hope, possibility and a quest for understanding.
As Burke stated, the theme of the album is “Be yourself, respect differences, find commonalities.”
Kidd elaborated in saying “The inspirations come from our lives … the things we experience in an average day.”
Songs such as “Grandpa Was a Coal Miner,” which is about 5 generations of struggle, or “Veterans Song,” which was written about the experiences of Burke’s brother returning from war, could have been written in any era. “They Call It Romantic” is a reminder of both the power and weakness of words when describing emotion.
You may find the disc is one that transports you to a time when songs were simpler and our public dialog less vitriolic. In all, album is a pretty powerful statement and it should prove a treat to those who enjoy the music of original folk artists such as Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and the “Protest Songs” of the early 1960’s.
More than simply troubadours, however, the two have also have taken active roles in their community, earning a Michigan Governor’s Award for “Artistic Excellence, Peace, Social Justice and Cultural Diversity.”
Burke was also recently invited to speak on issues of children’s literacy at the Michigan State Fair.
Kidd and Burke are currently in the midst of their 2016 International Tour, which has seen them perform in locales ranging from Hollywood to Tulsa to Cancun. They’ve played at Bluegrass Festivals, a Buddhist Temple and made their debut at the legendary Tootsie’s in Nashville. We can all probably agree that probably qualifies as diversity.
As for their plans beyond 2016? As Kidd puts it “We want to see how we can inspire others to impact their world. Before peace will come to this world, we are going to have to put down our swords.”
Sounds like a good plan to me. Leaves your hands free to pick up a guitar.
Burke summed up the pairs approach like this: “We just try to express the importance of this moment. When people relate, it is a beautiful thing.”
It’s the kind of thing that gives you hope for the future.
16th November, 2023