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Gina Forsyth Invites Us Into the Promised Land

CD Release Party December 16, Neutral Ground Coffee House 10 p.m.

Most people who know of Gina Forsyth think about her playing fiddle behind some of the great Cajun and Zydeco musicians of south Louisiana. She has recorded with Bruce Daigrepont, Amanda Shaw, Nonc Allie Young and Mamou, so the expectations around her current CD would probably run in that direction. But Promised Land, a CD featuring fourteen songs, is her family biography in the American Folk Song tradition.

Forsyth has written and compiled a CD that brings together stories from her family, personal experiences, and music that has touched her heart. The title song is a story of how her ancestors came to this country and began living the American dream. From there she recounts the movement of the family to the South, what it means to be a Southerner, and how so much of what Americans take for granted may actually be the product of a foreign country.

In her anthem to the South she sings “It’s grits and not granola, in the sweet and sunny South where I was born,” loving musicians and “fascist” politicians, fun food, “where Washington and Lee cannot get married” and “I love it and hate, now and then berate it.” She says this song constantly being rewritten, because the South keeps moving forward and there is so much to say about the heroes and scoundrels it produces. “Politicians give us such great material.” she said. It is a love song describing that for which she cares and that which drives her crazy.

Three songs are very personal to her. One recounts the eleven days she spent in the hospital in 2010, recovering from a very serious illness. The illness was a time in which she learned how much she was loved and cared for by so many other people. “There were people who loved me and wanted to see me returned to health.” This revelation gave her a new hope. And, she cannot be thankful enough to her friends for their caring. Out of that experience came Eleven Days, a tribute to the events and the response of her friends.

Two other very personal songs are Eddie and Just for Tonight. In each song she recounts the story of someone close to her that died suddenly. “I began to wonder what was I doing with my life? I thought that we (her generation) would be better than this,” she said. It is the conflict in which the world lives that bothers her. “I thought a lot about God. This is probably the most theological song I’ve written. What is God? Where are we going? We need to face the mess we have made.” So she asks the lyrical question “can we just be one world in peace?” What began as a personal reflection on the death of someone she loved moves on to address the larger issues.

The closing number is We Will Be Reborn, a U.S. history in four verses recounting the discovery of the continent to the current war. She holds out the hope of rebirth of the nation, but it can only occur once we bring our troops home. So much of this CD points to that part of America that has or is changing and not always for the good. In the closing track she embraces the option that it does not have to be this way – we can be reborn to what we had hoped to be.

“It is interesting, because I thought of this album as a political album, but people are hearing it as a spiritual CD – a statement of faith,” she said. There is much to be said for the spiritual aspect of the CD, because Forsyth often refers to God and the need for redemption and Grace. This is both the focus of individual spirituality and of the need for a nation to resettle on its foundation. What comes across so strongly in this CD is her passion for the music, the people and the times in which we live.

The recording features many of Forsyth’s friends, but it is mostly her guitar and fiddle playing that are front and center. A bass, banjo, some percussion and an accordion are used, but much of the music is the product of her fingers on the wooden instruments of which she is so adept.

The Promised Land will be released on Friday, December 16, at a party at the Neutral Ground Coffee House, 5110 Daneel Street in Uptown New Orleans. Forsyth comes on stage at 10 p.m.

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