John Lennon once said that the world is run by insane people for insane purposes. So what's an ordinary citizen to do? One response is to make music, and Death Don't Have No Mercy
is a clear response to the current insanitynamely the shameful war America is waging in Iraq. Good, we need more protest music. Best of all, this is an extraordinary recording, a stimulating blend of sounds and cultures fueled by great passion.
Part of what makes the disc special is the instrumentation. Andy Haas plays saxophone, piri (Korean woodwind), fife, and live electronics, and Don Fiorino plays guitar, lotar (Moroccan lute), banjo, and dobro. Each of the songs features just two of the instruments, in combinations ranging from guitar and sax to the more exotic dobro and piri. Weaving throughout are electronics, played by Haas with originality and vision. The duo is to be commended for seamlessly combining such apparently disparate instruments.
Of the twelve cuts, the three that strike deepest are renditions of traditional American war songs: "Anthem" is a version of the National Anthem, "Hymn" is a version of the "Marines' Hymn," and "Come Marching Home" is based on "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." Haas and Fiorino turn these songs on their heads, the familiar melodies deconstructed into soundscapes of disturbing beauty. Particularly moving is "Come Marching Home," where Haas' sax is so evocative it's chilling. Other standouts include "Ashes in the Sand," a gorgeous meditation that combines a mesmerizing lotar with sax and electronics, and the spare, haunting "Blood of Words."
The disc wraps up with "Que Sera¡, Sera," featuring a gentle guitar with sax and electronics. The song, where a child muses on his fate as an adult, can perhaps be heard as a poignant comment on the scores of Iraqi and American soldiers whose fates have surely taken turns they never envisioned or wanted.
This is genuinely exciting music with a rewarding wealth of sounds and ideas. And by interweaving traditional American war songs with others that evoke war's pain and futility, Haas and Fiorino are making a point. As the quote on the cover says, "Is it any comfort to know that the tanks murdering in my name are digging a grave for my people as well?"
Personnel: Andy Haas: saxophone, piri, fife, live electronics; Don Fiorino: guitar, lotar, banjo, dobro.