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'Let The Rhythm Lead' Brings Jackson Browne And Friends To Haiti

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In 2016, singer-songwriter Jackson Browne went to Haiti to donate recording equipment to a local music studio. The plan was to help train young producers, but the songs they created together took on a life of their own and led to a new album called "Let The Rhythm Lead: Haiti Song Summit, Vol. 1." Banning Eyre has this review.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LAPE, LANMOU")

JONATHAN WILSON, JENNY LEWIS AND SANBA ZAO: (Singing) Lape, lanmou.

BANNING EYRE, BYLINE: Jackson Browne has been travelling to Haiti since the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, but he didn't foresee winding up in the deeply impoverished town of Jacmel, creating music and, with some hesitation, attending a voodoo ceremony.

(SOUNDBITE OF JONATHAN WILSON, JENNY LEWIS AND SANBA ZAO SONG, "LAPE, LANMOU")

EYRE: Browne and his cadre of musicians had come to offer help, invited by the NGO Artists for Peace and Justice. But in the process, they became enchanted. And Haitian voodoo melodies became the basis for this album's opening track, "Lape, Lanmou" - peace and love.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LAPE, LANMOU")

WILSON, LEWIS AND SANBA ZAO: (Singing) White ribbon, you are forgiven.

EYRE: This track was recorded on a return trip to Haiti. This time, Browne came with still more collaborators, including Malian maestro Habib Koite, whose fleet guitar picking features prominently. Inspired by their Haitian collaborators, the musicians composed on the spot. Here's Jonathan Russell's "I Found Out."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I FOUND OUT")

JONATHAN RUSSELL: (Singing) I found out it's not the love that's in your mind. It's the love that you might find that's going to save our lives. Save our lives.

EYRE: The album's title track was written by Spain's Raul Rodriguez, who sings in Spanish words that translate, let the rhythm govern. Let the lies recede. Let the doors of truth fly open, show you what you need.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET THE RHYTHM LEAD")

RAUL RODRIGUEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

EYRE: These songs feel urgent and timely, often in tender ways. In the song "Under The Supermoon," Jenny Lewis finds solace from the world's problems among her new Haitian friends.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNDER THE SUPERMOON")

JENNY LEWIS AND HABIB KOITE: (Singing) Under the supermoon. Under the supermoon. Under the supermoon, I came back to life. Under the supermoon. Under the supermoon. Under the supermoon, (singing in non-English language).

EYRE: Jackson Browne himself contributes just one song, a Haitian travelogue called "Love Is Love."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE IS LOVE")

JACKSON BROWNE: (Singing) Love is love. Love is love. Love is love. Singing in non-English language).

EYRE: For an album with a social agenda, "Let The Rhythm Lead" delivers on the musical level. Through these songs, we join a journey of hope and discovery in a deeply troubled land.

KELLY: Banning Eyre is a senior producer at Afropop Worldwide. He reviewed the album, "Let The Rhythm Lead: Haiti Song Summit, Vol. 1."

(SOUNDBITE OF HABIB KOITE'S "KOULANDIAN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.