Thursday, November 08, 2012

The Shiz - War No More

Liz Hogan and Lilli Lewis are a musical couple from Hammond, LA, about an hour outside of New Orleans. As The Shiz, their music leaps fearlessly between gospel, jazz, and folk, always featuring great harmony and compelling, poetic lyrics.

With a little help from Kickstarter, they recorded a new EP this year and toured to the West Coast over the summer. Here’s what Lilli had to say about War No More, from their 2009 recording Where We Stand.

‘War No More’ was literally born on the mountainside it references in the first line of the song. I was living with my partner, Liz in Red Feather Lakes, CO, a tiny village tucked in the Rockies about 13 miles from the Wyoming border where we worked at a Buddhist retreat center for about 18 months. In Red Feather Lakes, the aspens really did shine like gold on the mountain, and the falling snow literally shimmered like tiny flakes of silver. The natural beauty awakened a sense of wonder that I hadn’t experienced since childhood, but the experience was grueling in ways that may be impossible to explain to one whose never undertaken the impossibilities of living in a freezing, windy wilderness while facilitating hundreds of ‘practitioners’ with a handful of people attempting to create ‘enlightened society’ little to no resources. Let’s just say we worked around the clock (oftentimes literally) while embracing the ‘groundlessness’ the experience afforded.

Liz’s boss asked us to learn Natalie Merchant’s ‘Thank You’ song to sing at various fundraisers, and when she left the center, this thank you song emerged and was offered as a parting gift. It is the first song I ever wrote with the specific intention of Liz playing it with me, and I worked extra hard to find a lilt and motif that made sense for a guitarist. The thank you’s offered were for the outrageous beauty of landscapes, open hearts, and the basic goodness in the world, but also for the struggles and the liberation they bring.

The refrain was borrowed from the iconic song the civil rights anthem Down By the Riverside. Since childhood, this song has taught me to “lay down my burdens down by the riverside and study war no more,” but it wasn’t until this season of my life that I learned that war was really an internal one. Working on “the land” as we called it, taught me that even though the world is a strange and often terrifying place, if I wanted to see peace externally, I had to cultivate that peace from within. The ‘thank you’s’ have become a mantra for me that remind me to be thankful for every opportunity to grow out of old resentments and fearful paradigms, and that every experience, god or bad, can be such an opportunity if I allow it to teach me.

If you enjoyed this track, please give The Shiz a Like on Facebook, and check back with us this weekend for our monthly Hootcast podcast, where I sit down with Lilli and Liz and learn how their band actually grew from a seed of intolerance. (by John Voorhees)

 

 

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