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Album Review: September 11 Project
Tobin Mueller
Cover image of the album September 11 Project by Tobin Mueller
September 11 Project
Tobin Mueller
2011 / Tobin Mueller (and 2001)
35 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
As we revisit and reflect on the events of 9/11/01 on this tenth anniversary of our country’s darkest day, thoughts also go to those who worked tirelessly to help in any way they could. What was that like? How did volunteers cope with all they saw and dealt with? Tobin Mueller gave blood, volunteered at Ground Zero, and then became the main coordinator of a volunteer effort that converted the Chelsea Piers indoor parking lot into a huge dispensary of items for those who were working in the area - everything from antibiotics and clothing to buckets and gas masks - even beer and cigarettes. Those efforts kept the volunteers working beyond human endurance, but how did they cope with the experience after the work was done? In Tobin’s case, he did what he does best and started writing songs, recording them in his living room. Composing and singing about the experiences started his own healing process. One of the lingering physical scars of Tobin’s time as a volunteer is severe lung damage that prevents him from singing anymore, making this album even more personal and poignant. The seven songs have fairly simple accompaniment - a mix of piano, keyboard, bass, organ, guitar, and occasional light percussion. The songs are as Tobin Mueller recorded them ten years ago. He remastered each track, but no additions were made.

“New Holy Land” opens the project. This spirited and rousing anthem summarizes the experience of volunteering - energetic, hectic, and desperately trying to help in any way possible. It also reflects on the hope of making a difference by rebuilding an even better place than what was destroyed. “Was There Once A Time” is much more introspective, digesting what has happened and trying to remember easier times that seem so long ago. “Last Call” was inspired by first-hand accounts of people who lost someone and had only the memory of a last phone call. Beautiful but heartbreaking. “I Will Love” begins by expressing the grief and disbelief of what happened, then evolves into an anthem to hope and love. Tobin originally composed “At Her Window” for his young daughter in the aftermath of her parents’ divorce. For this collection, the song becomes a tender love song from a father’s ghost to his surviving daughter. “What Thou Lovest Well” was inspired by a poem by Ezra Pound, and conveys a message of hope in the face of incredible adversity. “When I Sing” closes the album trying to make sense of the events while questioning beliefs that existed previously.

September 11 Project is remarkable in its candor and its expression of the human spirit. I really hope this music receives the exposure it deserves, as it has had a profound affect on me. The album is available from CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon, and from tobinmueller.com. In addition to his music, Tobin has made excerpts from his journal from 2001 available at artsforge.com - very compelling reading.
September 4, 2011
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