Tobin Mueller‘s music has always had something to say, from beautiful commentaries on the world around us to celebrating the work of iconic musicians to examining some of his favourite literature. Many artists use their position in the public eye as a platform to say something that is important to them, but few do it as well, or indeed eloquently, as Tobin.

And this brace of thematically connected songs from his Best of Tobin Mueller Volume 4 compilation, a collection of songs with a vocal component, show exactly why I can make such a bold statement.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks on New York, it was easy to forgive the outpourings of rage and revenge, a natural reaction to a uniquely tragic situation. But, of course, an eye for an eye is never a real solution. Instead, Tobin’s thoughts, living in Manhattan then, turned to love and compassion. As the dust settled, literally, there was a palpable sense of shock, disbelief and devastation hanging over the city, but there was also a growing feeling of hope and compassion, love and caring, evidenced by outpourings of charity and aid.

I Will Love reminds us that it is that sense of unity and love for your fellow man that should be the event’s real legacy, a feeling that it is in the face of such darkness and adversity that humanity shines brightest. And now, over twenty years on, it is those aspects that we should remember, that love always finds a way to rebuild, both physically and spiritually.

And not only is I Will Love an anthem for hope, gently rising from an understated ballad into an epic crescendo of triumph over adversity, of regrowth and of the power of love, it is also a prayer and dedication to the people of New York City, the families and first responders caught up in the events and of course those who are no longer with us. The video contains some harrowing and heart-aching, though important footage and photographs but also shows the building of The Freedom Tower, which now stands as a memorial and a reminder of the city’s spirit and people’s determination.

New Holy Land springs from a different part of the story, inspired by Tobin’s own efforts to co-ordinate and effectively distribute the many donations that began flooding in, everything from water to clothing, antibiotics to accommodation. It again pays tribute to those on the ground, the citizens and volunteers who did everything they could to ensure that friends and strangers alike were helped out in whatever way they needed.

But it also asks some fundamental questions. If the city had a chance to adopt a new, more compassionate spirit that would carry on beyond the requirements of the 9/11 event, did it succeed? Does that same spirit exist today when the city faces all manner of smaller, everyday tragedies – homelessness, drug problems, crime, poverty – does the 9/11 spirit still prevail? Could the events of that day have ushered in a new era, enabling it to be part of a New Holy Land? Could the memory of the events still do so?

Both songs, especially when accompanied by the powerful video imagery, remind us of, as Dickens might have put it, the worst of times and the best of times, of our ability to put our differences aside and care in an unambiguous and unlimited capacity for one another. They also beg the question, is it only in response to such evils that we shine the brightest, and if so, why can’t we harness such goodwill and turn it into a more everyday commodity and more generous and empathic outlook.

The more you play these songs, the more questions you will ask yourself and others. It is only when enough people ask enough questions that the solutions can be found. And that is the power of these songs and of Tobin Mueller as a maker of powerful and poignant music.

Note: You Tube has seen fit to age restrict the video for I Will Love. Presumably they are being over-zealous in their policing regarding the tragic events being represented in the video. But that is to miss the point. Surely, it is only when we bring such debate to the fore that we can explore and understand humanity and given that the whole drive of the song and the video is to show that love, compassion and empathy can go a long way to overcome tragedy, help rebuild lives and allow us to move on. If such ideals are not taught at a young age, then when?

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Musician, scribbler, historian, gnostic, seeker of enlightenment, asker of the wrong questions, delver into the lost archives, fugitive from the law of averages, blogger, quantum spanner, left footed traveller, music journalist, zenarchist, freelance writer, reviewer and gemini. People have woken up to worse.

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