Child of the honeysuckled hills of Arkansas and son of America's first black country duo, Sarge and Shirley West, Luke West honors family tradition through a unique contribution to music and social justice. Born of a rugged past, the smoky Luke West blend of Americana and country blues simmers with a rich heritage and hope for the future.
Indeed, the silky grit of Luke West's eclectic debut album, Sing Me Back Home touches the heart at many levels. Listeners come away changed; somehow lifted from the unrelenting clutch of daily life. One by one, they step forward to be a part of this man's journey through the darkness into dappled days and a promising light ahead.
In the early 80s, Luke West travelled with Up With People (UWP), an international musical performance troupe which lay the stepping stones for many seeking that holy grail of being a part of something bigger than self. Like his fellow travelers, a more colorful harmonious version of himself lay on the other side of the experience.
Building "bridges of communication" for the peoples of the world, theirs was a "song of peace;" a message of hope and respect for all. In the years that followed, former cast members celebrated the successes of their companions, placing into daily action the lessons of that amazing chapter in their lives.
In many ways, that message foreshadowed Luke West's personal journey for peace, hope, and respect, amid the rough patches that would cobble his road and the human rights cause that would capture his heart. For West, those bittersweet days weave into the minor chords of his later life on the streets, and the bright lyrical fanfares spotlighting the journey ahead. It is a journey embracing the painful lessons of the past, then setting them free that they may no longer wound the soul. As a reflection of his life, West's music carries his own scrappy will to survive, and to find the "sun-shiny days" of which he writes. It's a message that transcends the personal journey and speaks as a ministry to all who cross those bridges between victim and survivor, accepting and denying, and of bitterness and forgiveness.
NM Organized Against Trafficking Humans (NM-OATH)
In 2011, NM Organized Against Trafficking Humans (NM-OATH) welcomed Luke West in efforts to raise public awareness about modern day slavery. The nonprofit existed hand-to-mouth with minimal public support and private donations, and badly needed vibrant new programming to infuse their efforts with positive hopeful energy.
Both UWP and NM-OATH share values for human rights, cultural awareness, and international dialogue, and the alliance between Luke West and NM-OATH seemed a natural fit. Under the direction of West, the new NM-OATH Performing Arts Initiative gathered musicians and performing artists to promote awareness about human trafficking.
Two hundred years ago, society had to be convinced that slavery was wrong. Today, they have to be convinced that slavery exists at all, despite that human trafficking holds a priority one ranking for the FBI in the state of New Mexico and is the second largest criminal industry in the world.
Buttressing efforts at raising public awareness, the NM-OATH Performing Arts Initiative serves as an uplifting program aimed at identifying human trafficking victims so they may recover their lives. Performers gathering under West's direction hold a common understanding that independent of ego and personalities, music is a language and message which can't help but move consciousness forward. As Luke West says, "Good music heals the soul!"
Today, West brings his "Batman spirit" to NM-OATH with the same fierceness that infuses his loyalty to friends, his faith, and his passion against injustice. Indeed, Luke West's song, "Evening Traffic," inspired by his work with NM-OATH, emotes the harsh haunting effects of human trafficking. The acoustic tones of West's spalted maple guitar bolster the gritty lyrics of the contemporary slave experience. In its presence, the listener is transformed, and once again, his message finds fertile ground.
Through Kickstarter.com, Luke West joins the many filmmakers, musicians, artists, and designers who launch projects where creators and backers join forces make dreams a reality. As the deadline fast approaches on his campaign to raise $5,000 to press and promote Sing Me Back Home, West sends up a personal cheer for each new pledge that brings him closer to his goal.
Produced by J. Gary Smith Productions out of Nashville, Tennessee, Luke West's album features his "unorthodox" original music ranging from energetic neo-country rock to the haunting spiritual ballad, "Sing Me Back Home," made famous by Merle Haggard in 1968. The album is expected to be complete in early 2014, and a portion of the proceeds will launch the Sing Me Back Home tour and raise awareness for victims of human trafficking.
Kickstarter provides an engaging forum for the dreams to become a reality. Yet it's the unique bonds between people that bring success and warm the heart. Already, across the globe, the UWP alumnae network unfolds a patchwork of lifelong friends stepping forward to support Luke West, the victims of human trafficking, and the journey of bridges common to all of us.