By Freeman staff
Tropical storms Irene and Lee may not be headline news anymore, but their victims haven't been forgotten—at least by area musicians.
Twenty-three of them have pooled their talents and given their time in a benefit CD, "The Hudson Valley Artists Hurricane Relief Project," a virtual CD that is a compilation of pre-existing tracks.
Sponsored by Soundscape Presents, a nonprofit agency, all the artists have contributed their original works for the sole purpose of raising money to help the thousands of people still struggling to recover and rebuild their lives in the devastating aftermath of the tropical storms.
The collective project is the brainchild of Machan Taylor of Kerhonkson who served as the executive producer.
As a Japanese-American, she was similarly moved by the devastation that followed last year's tsunami in her native land, so she organized "The Motherland Project
," featuring fellow Japanese-American artists to raise money for the victims.
It was a labor of love, but cumbersome to pull off, and Taylor said she thought that sort of work was behind her.
"But when I saw the pictures on the news and on the Web of towns being flooded out, bridges washing away and people in my own backyard losing everything, it was a similar emotional response in a way as to the Japan earthquake and tsunami" she said.
"My heart felt gripped by the human suffering, and I felt the call to do something — something through and with the healing power of music."
She quickly learned that others were feeling the same, and many in the music community started talking about doing a concert to raise money for the cause, Taylor recalled.
Several artists like John Sebastian, Marc Black, Tracy Bonham, Happy Traum and others did that in September and raised $11,000. The funds were donated to Family of Woodstock.
"It was a very gratifying experience, and I wanted to see it go further," Taylor said.
Not long after, many of those same musicians came together to work on the CD.
Taylor said it took about three months to pull it together.
"Whenever you're dealing with contract, intellectual property rights, web designing... and then the holidays, it always takes longer than you'd like," Taylor said.
"Actually we're still tweaking things with the site and working on promotion and marketing so it's far from finished," she said.
In addition to Taylor's contributions, some of the artists featured in the project are Bruce Katz, David Kraai, David Malachowski, Jay Collins, Marc Black, Marco Benevento and Amy Helm, who donated her never-before-released song, "Sing To Me."
"It's just beautiful," Taylor said. "But Amy's singing it, so how could it not be? I love her voice."
Taylor said the extraordinary thing about the project and the previous tsunami benefit was that she learned a valuable lesson about humanity.
"I learned that when you really have heartfelt desire and compassion as the motivator, people come out to help from places and ways that you never expect," she said.
"Essentially, I think the human spirit is good and about love, and it's in these times and for these causes (that) you see the evidence of it."
Taylor said the project will serve as a reminder to those who have moved on since the storms hit late last summer that the need is still there.
"There are still thousands of people who, on a daily basis, are…struggling to reclaim or rebuild their homes, livelihoods, some sense of normalcy and recover from what was a nightmare for them," she said.
"My husband and I were very blessed and didn't suffer as many people I know. We were lucky. But many were not. And that's something we should remember every day."
Those interested in purchasing the CD can download it for $20 from the website,