A thousand years ago, Pete Seeger gave a concert at my upstate NY college. Through some creative excuse-making, I was fortunate enough to cut class early enough to get a seat on the stage where Seeger would be playing. At one point in the ensuing concert, he switched off from banjo to 12-string guitar. I almost fell off the stage when he handed me his banjo to “watch”. As I took the banjo, I felt this burst of memories…all of the songs he’s played, the places he’s been (ok…so maybe I had imbibed in some illegal substances before the concert…it was the late sixties for crying out loud).
On the head of the banjo, I saw the handwritten words, ‘This machine surrounds hate, and forces it to surrender’. To this day, I continue to be amazed at the capacity of music (doesn’t matter what genre) to document a culture and to impact what the values of that culture might be moving toward. Nobody – I repeat, Nobody – has stayed as close to the issues that matter the most than Pete Seeger. An unflinching advocate for social justice, equality, a fair wage, Seeger (now 93 years old) has not strayed from his basic values, that of ‘we’re all in this together’.
Appleseed Recordings has just released two recordings that serve to document and expand on Pete Seeger’s legacy. The 1st album, Pete Remembers Woody (a 2-disc set) is a collection of reminiscences from Pete about his interactions with Woody Guthrie. Sprinkled in between are versions of a few memorable Guthrie songs (Woody’s son, Arlo, with Pete on “66 Highway Blues”). This is a must-listen for any true folkie, if not for the recollections about Guthrie, then for the classic renditions of many of Guthrie’s most famous (and a few unknown) songs.
The second Seeger issue is a collaboration with Lorre Wyatt titled A More Perfect Union. It is a collection of new folk songs where Seeger sings and plays 12-string guitar and banjo (if my fingers still move at age 93, I’ll be happy). We’re not breaking any new ground here despite the presence of Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle, Emmy Lou Harris, and Dar Williams, among others. It’s simply a collection of themes relating to the old Folk mode. My favorite is “Old Apples”, particularly poignant given Seeger’s gentle lead vocals. To those who grew up on Folk music, I can heartily recommend these Seeger treasures. The old master will not be here forever.
Release Date: September 25, 2012