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PETE SEEGER - Pete Seeger At 89

PETE SEEGER - Pete Seeger At 89

Here’s an album from a man who now has reached his eighty-ninth year, a man who has worked tirelessly for humanitarian, political and environmentalist causes through his songs and music the whole world over and back in his own Hudson Valley.  I suspect that this is where the heart of it lies; a cabin in Beacon, New York, somewhere overlooking the Hudson River, where this man at 89 still chops wood as the sun peaks up over the mountain…From here there’s a voice though maybe gentler in it’s tone still as vibrant and strong in the message its sending, as it ever was.

Pete Seeger‘s new album is a wonderful concoction of old and new songs never recorded before, a couple of banjo riffs and flute pieces and Pete Seeger’s own introductions to the songs. These are kept short while still giving the listener an insider view of the song and its context.  Pete Seeger is joined by a host of great local singers and musicians such as members of Work of the Weavers and the Walkabout Clearwater Chorus, the Hudson River Sloop Singers and the After Hours Quartet.  A conscious decision probably to follow the Pete Seeger & Friends volumes on the Appleseed Record label, which featured many well-known artists singing Pete’s songs, with an album of Pete Seeger himself in the moment of the day in the company of friends from the local community.

The album consists of 32 tracks of concerned, moving, joyous and hopeful music and unfortunately I can only mention a few here.  Wonderful Friends is a simple but strong song of the power of friendship sung by Pete and Dave Bernz with a rising chorus joined by more singers.  Throw Away that Shad Net is to me the essence of Pete Seeger’s optimism, a song of the PCB pollution in the Hudson River and the determination to make the waters clean again. Tzena, Tzena, Tzena is recorded here as a beautiful bridge between cultures with lyrics in the original Hebrew and new Arabic lyrics - and in a hopeful allegory it becomes a wonderful harmony.  False From True is a word of wisdom put to a gentle swinging tune.  Waist Deep in the Big Muddy gets a comeback as the liner notes says it’s ‘…shamefully, relevant again.’  Little Fat Baby is a very moving song by Seeger and Bernz of the swift passing of time. 

This album is all embracing and intimate.  I first encountered Pete Seeger’s music in the early 90’s, I was 13 and watched him on the telly singing at a festival in Denmark, the audience sang We Shall Overcome to call him back onto the stage…it seemed to come out of nowhere and started quietly but began to rise until thousands of people sang from the bottom of their hearts…I wish I had been there… Pete Seeger sings, ‘but I promise you brothers and sisters of every skin, I’ll sing your story while I’ve breath within’ - and thank God for that.  

Pernille Rutzou

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This album was reviewed in Issue 82 of The Living Tradition magazine.