by Charmie Gholson
One crisp fall night in 1989, some friends and I wandered into a cramped, stinky bar and stood three feet away from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a band that none of us, until that very moment, had ever heard of. We sat right on the stage while they frothed and pumped out music unlike anything we'd ever seen. It was frenetic and fierce, with a positive message.
Believe it or not, I felt the same way when Joe Reilly first played his music for me. Well, except he wasn't wearing a bondage mask and giant diaper, like bassist Flea, and nobody got a nose broken. Okay, and he's not an entire funk/rock band either, just one guy with an acoustic guitar. But I did experience the same sensation that I had discovered something incredible.
For me that initial moment came when I interviewed him for my radio show. I was struck by his wisdom and humility, but after he played his first song, I was literally left speechless. Despite the unassuming nature of this young man armed only with a simple guitar, Reilly zeroed in on something very powerful and sent it out into the room. It caught in my chest and stayed there for a long time:
| You are the best medicine and |
You are my most intimate companion you are
The strongest remedy
You are the truest friend to me.
Reilly came to town from Kalamazoo as a U-M student. Both his parents are musicians, and at fourteen he had begun songwriting and playing guitar. He would make a good American Idol candidate: he's got the looks (he's Italian and Cherokee) and actual talent. Luckily, however, instead of partaking in acts of corporate mainstream idiocy, Reilly has immersed himself in the teachings of spiritual masters and elders, musicians, and social activists from across the globe.
Reilly's music and lyrics are clever and poetic and
often playful. He blends hip-hop, blues, gospel, world rhythms, and traditional American Indian styles, and I find the combination of deep spiritual truths with hip-hop to be brilliant and satisfying. For instance, the groovy, soulful "Infinite Hearts" has become a regular prayer for me when I'm giving in to the dark side:
| The room in my heart is infinite, |
there's no limit to what can fit in it and if
love is what I give, love is what I get.
It's the balance between my body and spirit.
Joe Reilly makes music that flows through us calls us closer to who we want and need to be. It's joyous, humble, and clear and no one gets a nose broken. He celebrates the release of his new CD, Planting Gardens, at the Friends Meetinghouse on Friday, September 29. He'll also appear at Crazy Wisdom on Friday, September 8 (see Nightspots).
[Review published September 2006]