Welcome to a "Cynic-Free Zone." To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Magpie's Greg Artzner and Terry Leonino have assembled a diverse and wonderfully harmonized collection of songs that, as the album's title suggests, radiate waves of hope and compassion.
Mind you, not all of the tunes are cheery. Far from it. Some of the ballads deal with profound loss (Bob Franke's "For Real") or concern lingering rage (Artzner's "Kent"), while several others (including "Mary Brown, Abolitionist," "Cry Carolina" and "Freedom Bound") were inspired by the bloodstained battle for civil rights. Yet the album's fundamental and unwavering theme is best summed up by the title track's opening line: "Give light, and people will find the way."
Trite as that may sound, Magpie has sustained its long career by promoting that very message, onstage and off, in ways that are thoughtful and wise. There's not a hint of self-infatuation here, just a series of well-crafted songs, each beautifully sung and designed to lift the listener's spirits.
During the album's lighter moments -- when the duo and its gifted session mates reprise the dreamy swing tune "Under a Blanket of Blue," for example, or indulge in some delightful traveling music on "Way Back Home" -- the mood is carefree and not a little campy. More often, though, the standout tracks concern social causes, personal resolve and fundamental optimism -- topics that have brought out the best in Magpie year after year after year.
The local duo can also be heard collaborating with Kim and Reggie Harris on "Guide My Feet," a collection of mostly inspirational ballads and freedom anthems powered by a cast that includes such special guests as Pete Seeger, Jay Unger, David Buskin and Keter Betts. Among the highlights are Seeger's "Old Devil Time" and Magpie's "Sarowiwa," both fueled by a defiant spirit and rousing harmonies, and the Harrises's simple yet comforting ballad "In the Shelter of Each Other."
Both appearing Tuesday at Strathmore Hall. Call 301/530-0540. To hear a free Sound Bite from Kim and Reggie Harris, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8132. For a free Sound Bite from Magpie, press 8129. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)