Top Singer-Songwriters Perform Music for Peace

A lineup that included singer-songwriters John Prine, Darrell Scott , Beth Nielsen Chapman and Tim O’Brien presented a three-hour Music for Peace concert Wednesday (March 12) to a sold-out house at Nashville’s Belcourt Theater. Also on the bill were Irish singer Maura O’Connell, Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, Alan Rhody and Luke Reynolds of the new group Blue Merle.

The event, sponsored by the Nashville Peace and Justice Center and organized by O’Brien, drew more than 300 opponents to an American war with Iraq. Despite the nature of the gathering, the evening was long on music and short on speeches.

The performers could have filled the evening with hits they wrote for others, but they generally stuck to lower-key and less-known fare. Scott did delight the crowd with a slow, bluesy version of “Long Time Gone,” one of his contributions to the Dixie Chicks . Rhody, whose hit compositions include “Train Wreck of Emotion” for Lorrie Morgan and “I’ll Be True to You” for the Oak Ridge Boys , sang “Rocket Fire,” a song he wrote especially for the concert. Chapman, whose credits include “This Kiss” (Faith Hill ) and “Strong Enough to Bend” (Tanya Tucker ), performed instead her contemplative “Dancer to the Drum.” Prine, a last-minute addition to the cast, resurrected his cult favorite from the Vietnam era, “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore.”

O’Connell, who built her 10-song set on songs from other writers, was the hit of the evening, even though all the acts earned encores. “I got my first e-mail today, saying I shouldn’t support the Peace and Justice Center,” she told the crowd. “And I said, ’Should I be supporting the Bombing and Injustice Center?’ That wasn’t in the Yellow Pages.”

Fleck and his band did a mostly instrumental jazz program. But it was leavened at one point by bassist Victor Wooten’s impassioned rap for social justice. Near the conclusion of its set, the band wove into one of its longer pieces a medley of Beatles melodies and ended with John Lennon’s “Imagine” and “Give Peace a Chance,” to which the audience sang along. When Prine came back on stage for his encore, O’Connell joined him to sing “Angel From Montgomery.”

Frequent co-writers O’Brien and Scott opened with their spirited “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burnin'” and then ranged through such folk and gospel numbers as “Farewell Angelina” and “House of Gold” before wrapping up the evening with O’Brien’s cross-generational “Another Day to Live and Die.”

O’Brien announced a follow-up peace concert at the Belcourt for April 9 that will feature him and his band, Chapman and Wise Child.

Set List:

Alan Rhody
“Rocket Fire”

Maura O’Connell
“Summer Fly”
“I Wonder”
“Blue Train”
“Down by the Salley Gardens”
“A Far Cry”
“Trouble in the Fields”
“A Poor Man’s House”
“An Irish Blessing”
“Crazy Love”

Beth Nielsen Chapman
“Dancer to the Drum”

Bela Fleck & the Flecktones
“Sex in a Pan”
“Turkey in the Straw”
“Stomping Grounds”
“Give Peace a Chance”

Luke Reynolds
“Turn the Page Again”

John Prine
“The Great Compromise”
“Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore”

John Prine and Maura O’Connell
“Angel From Montgomery”

Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott
“Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burnin'”
“Train Man”
“Farewell Angelina”
“Mick Ryan’s Lament”
“Walk Beside Me”
“Long Time Gone”
“House of Gold”
“Another Day to Live and Die”

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to