As longtime songwriters, performers, and residents of planet Earth, Kim and Reggie Harris have learned the meaning and virtue of simplicity. As they write in the liner notes of their fourth and latest Appleseed Recordings CD, 'Simplicity,' 'In a world that seems to grow more violent and overwhelming with each passing day, this music is, for us, a reminder of one simple truth: we are all connected.' Without pretension or elaborate instrumentation, 'Simplicity' is like an open window on the seemingly self-evident but obviously hard-to-achieve concept that global peace and understanding are the only means for our own survival and that of future generations. The CD's fourteen tracks mix Kim and Reggie originals with traditional compositions and songs by Sting ('We Work the Black Seam'), Phil Ochs ('Changes'), and Pete Seeger ('Rainbow Race'), among others, but the theme remains the same: learn or be chained to the mistakes of history. The determined spirit of optimism and activism that inspired 'Simplicity' is introduced on the CD's opening song, the traditional spiritual 'This Little Light of Mine.' 'The real power is yours and mine/So let your little light shine,' sing Kim and Reggie, joined by another Appleseed duo, Charlie King and Karen Brandow, who also appear on the ecology-minded 'Solar Carol.' Another special guest, John Sebastian (solo artist and founder of the Lovin' Spoonful), galvanizes 'Big, Big World' with some raucous harmonica work, and the Harrises are joined by their longtime friends and frequent collaborators Greg Artzner and Terry Leonino (a.k.a. Magpie) on the CD's affirmative closer, 'Rainbow Race.' Oboist Troy Messenger adds a lovely texture to the two peaceful instrumentals - Reggie's 'Simplicity' and 'Findlandia (Song of Peace)' by classical composer Jean Sibelius - that bracket Kim Harris's chilling 'Short Shift at Ground Zero.' Written two weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, her song is a kaleidoscope of images from that dreadful day, shards of news reports and prayers interwoven with disaster-scene vignettes, a drifting chorus from the gospel song 'Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child' and a montage of sound effects. Despite the despair and uncertainty reflected in 'Short Shift,' 'We Work the Black Seam,' and 'Changes,' the warmth of the Harrises' voices and arrangements and the tantalizing simplicity of their musical and social goal - universal harmony - makes their new CD a comforting and inspiring call to common sense. ABOUT KIM & REGGIE With talent, creativity, idealism, and 25 years of experience in performing, recording and teaching on their resume, Kim and Reggie Harris are the consummate modern folk musicians. Whether entrancing folk festival crowds with their own material or dramatizing underground railroad songs for schoolchildren in classroom workshops, the duo carry on the folk tradition of preserving important songs from the past and adding meaningful new compositions that reflect the world around them. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pa., both Kim and Reggie were exposed to a wide range of musical styles and approaches throughout their childhoods. They met by chance at a summer camp in 1974 and continued their friendship that fall as fellow students at Temple University. As their personal relationship deepened, they also combined their vocal and instrumental skills (both sing, and Reggie is an adept and expressive guitarist), and started performing at local Philadelphia coffeehouses and clubs. They were married in 1976, and by 1980 had hit the road in an ongoing tour schedule that still averages more than 250 dates a year. In their travels, they have opened for or performed with such artists as Pete Seeger, Richie Havens, Tom Paxton, Arlo Guthrie, Janis Ian, Joan Baez, Jay Leno, Leontyne Price and many others. Writing songs together, alone, or with other musicians, the Harrises have never suffered from a shortage of material or subject matter. Their compositions have dealt with such ever-relevant topics as politics ('Big, Big World,' 'Read the Lips'), domestic violence ('Crack in the Wall'), the family of man ('Spoken in Love'), the joys and sorrows of love ('Sweetness of Your Smile,' 'Four Walls') and a constant theme of social activism ('Let it Rain'). Their lighthearted paean to automobile seatbelts, 'Passive Restraint,' was even featured on National Public Radio's syndicated 'Car Talk' program. As their live shows and seven albums to date (including four for Appleseed) clearly illustrate, the Harrises are adept at recognizing good songs by other writers and they know how to make them their own. Aside from recording classic compositions by folk icons like Pete Seeger and Phil Ochs, Kim and Reggie have also adopted more obscure gems like Chris Farrell's 'The Stars that Didn't Shine' (about forgotten Negro League baseball players) and David Roth's idealistic 'Earth,' and roamed even farther afield to cover 'Woyaya' by Osibisa, an African rock band of the Seventies. The Harrises' cultural background as African-Americans is a major component of their repertoire. Spirituals and gospel songs are liberally incorporated in their work, and they are well respected in scholastic circles for their presentations on black history for teachers and students alike. Perhaps their best known recording, 'Steal Away: Songs of the Underground Railroad,' serves as the backbone of their 'Music and the Underground Railroad' workshops. They also present programs for teachers entitled 'Dream Alive! A Celebration of Black History' and 'Music of the Modern Civil Rights Era.' Whether appearing at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, or P.S. #187 right down the street, Kim and Reggie Harris have established their place in today's musical and sociopolitical environment. As all of us should strive to become, they are part of the solution to the world's ills - a balm for the troubled, an inspiration for the tired or apathetic, a musical force for positive change.
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