Various Artists

Give US Your Poor

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Give US Your Poor is a benefit record that doesn't duck from its subject for commercial considerations, which is to say that -- the excellent contributions of Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, and Bonnie Raitt aside -- you're not going to get through the album without contemplating what's it's like to be homeless. But a downer this CD is not: from Springsteen's juiced-up version of the classic "Hobo's Lullaby" with Pete Seeger to Madeleine Peyroux's pretty "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" to Dan Zanes and Kyla Middleton's rootsy picker-upper "Boll Weevil," the music shoves away preachiness and solemnity in favor of hope. It's there in Danny Glover's affecting spoken word "My Name Is Not 'Those People'" and also Sweet Honey in the Rock's grounded a cappella "Stranger Blues," but where it really reaches its target is on the opening sequence. "Land of 10,000 Homeless -- Minnesota" is a brief audio documentary set to music; here you meet people living the life, and here you hear their sagas. Self-pity never plays a part; only simple humanity, taken to the streets and scrubbed to its core elements, shines through.

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