Death Don’t Have No Mercy – Andy Haas and Don Fiorino
Artists respond to tragedy in different ways. Some, like country singer Alan Jackson, are inspired to create heartfelt tributes that rely on ham-handed lyrics to make a blunt statement. Then there are musicians like Andy Haas and Don Fiorino. With just two instrumentalists and no lyrics, they compose a mysterious sonic journey and find deep meaning in the reworking of classic patriotic songs. While Jacksons Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning) spoke to the gut of Middle America in a simple and somewhat base manner, Haas and Fiorinos Death Dont Have No Mercy is a heady collage of sound and symbolism that appeals to the minds of those Americans who still believe in free thought. Oh, and by the way, the album is fucking brilliant.
Recorded in one day, Death Dont Have No Mercy is the woodwind and string duos pointed and powerful response to the Iraq War. With Haas manning the sax, piri, fife, and live electronics and Fiorino handling the guitar, lotar, banjo, and dobro, the two build a mysterious Arabian soundscape for their riveting anti-war statement. Their original compositions, such as the haunting Ashes in the Sand and the pious meditation of Blood of Words, serve to construct a Middle Eastern atmosphere and set the scene for the deep impact of the deconstructed American anthems that follow. As they twist, stretch, and contort The Star Spangled Banner, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and When Johnny Comes Marching Home, Haas and Fiorino seem to be pointing out the inherent hypocrisy in Americas foreign policy in Iraq. These time-tested anthems of strength and American perseverance suddenly appear to be weak and suffering from internal bleeding. The irony of hearing When Johnny Comes Marching Home when we have no idea when or if Johnny will ever come marching home is rather insightful. As Haas and Fiorino see it, the once mighty America is now crumbling, crushed by the weight of guilt from a series of bad decisions that have cost many lives. The album concludes with a chilling version of Que Sera, Sera that accurately sums up the laissez-faire attitude many Americans embody while their brothers and sisters are murdered on the other side of the planet.
Veterans of New Yorks downtown music scene and past collaborators with the great John Zorn, Haas and Fiorinos esoteric brand of atmospheric jazz is not for everyone. However, those who can appreciate unorthodox, bold statements will savor this work of art. After all, Jimi Hendrix once made history with his unique rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, and Haas and Fiorino have taken Hendrix giant step and sent it skyrocketing into the psychedelic stratosphere in an album that is thoroughly profound and quite moving.