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Appleseed Recordings APRCD1131

Woody Guthrie is thought of by many, including me, to be America’s supreme writer of folk-style songs. His tremendous output plus the colourful stories of his life and the sadness of his decline into death from Huntington’s chorea have given him almost legendary status. Thousands of people know his work, but no-one around nowadays knows him as well as Pete Seeger. On these two discs, issued by the estimable Appleseed Recordings, Pete sits before a microphone and talks informally about his memories of times they shared on the road and off. He tells of how they first met, of how Woody took him off hitch-hiking around America, taught him how to sing ‘in saloons’, and many other things.

Some of Pete’s memories take the form of introductions to songs which cue a galaxy of ‘various artists’ into action with some heartfelt performances. David Bentz, who thought up this project, opens up, and then we hear from Pete, plus Arlo Guthrie, Woody’s son, singing 66 Highway Blues. Other singers include The Vanaver Caravan, a song and dance group whose arrangements include some nifty clogging, and Work O’ The Weavers, a tribute band who duplicate the sound of the Seeger-led group of the 1950’s whose hit records featured several Woody songs. Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer also sing, and there is a vintage track from The Almanac Singers. It wouldn’t be right not to have a Woody track of course, and on disc one we hear him with old running mate Cisco Houston singing New York Town.

The whole thing is beautifully put together, and with the warm and affectionate spoken words of Pete Seeger, the set becomes a tour-de-force. I have been a Woody Guthrie fan since I first heard his music in the 1950’s, and I recognise a genuine tribute when I hear it. Well done everyone.

Roy Harris

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This album was reviewed in Issue 96 of The Living Tradition magazine.