Various Artists

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Vigil Review

by William Ruhlmann

Among the people killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, was Jeff Hardy, who, in addition to being a chef at the brokerage firm Cantor Fitzgerald on the 101st floor of the north tower, was a bass player of long standing in the Greenwich Village folk music community and the brother of folk singer/songwriter Jack Hardy. Jack had, since the late '70s, hosted the weekly meetings of the Greenwich Village Songwriter's Exchange, an organization that, in the 1980s and '90s, ran a club, SpeakEasy, and published a magazine, Fast Folk, each issue containing a collection of recordings. Those activities eventually ceased, but the weekly meetings continued. After 9/11, Suzanne Vega, the best known of the performers to emerge from the group, organized Vigil, a charity project for the Jeff Hardy Memorial Fund to benefit Jeff's family. The participants, all of whom were asked to provide their own recordings, include Vega, Jack Hardy, and other names familiar from the Fast Folk era, such as Christine Lavin, Richard Julian, Brian Rose, Wendy Beckerman, and Frank Tedesso, as well as several younger performers. The songs explore various aspects of the tragedy from different angles. Jack, of course, provides a close-up examination of the event's personal consequences in "Ground Zero" and "On a Clear Day," while Bob Hillman's artless "World Trade Center" describes the more common experience of seeing the towers fall on TV, over and over again. Rose reflects on the changes in the look of the city in "The Skyline," and Beckerman explores the aftermath in "Life Goes On." Each song provides an individual response, but taken together, the album represents the feelings of a city in the first months following its most cataclysmic event.

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