All and sundry may more familiarly know the surname through Pete Seeger, one of her brothers, but Ms. Seeger is a firm foundation in the modern folk movement and well she should be. With the singing voice of a 20-year old, the tone and temperament of a slightly acidic and world-wise 40-year old, and possessing the studied acumen of a 500-year old, the lady enjoyed a warm intimate gathering of friends and family upon the occasion of her 70th birthday at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, England. Guests included Martin Carthy, Billy Bragg, the aforementioned Pete and other bro Mike, and several others, all recognized celebs in the firmament. The 2-dics set proves to be a delight in more ways than the presence of these worthies.
First off, Seeger's a daunting multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar, autoharp, banjo, piano, concertina, and of course singing. However, she doesn't just play, she demonstrates a fluency surprising even for an overachiever on the banjo, and her vocals can be either bird-on-a-wire delicate or gusty, ringing with authority and surprising projection. From the many gritty inferences, one suspects that fools trifle with this woman at their peril. Most of the songs are Seeger's own but she pulls in a few traditionals, including Hangman, which Led Zeppelin popularized in the 70s through a rendition entitled Gallows Pole. Irene Pyper-Scott joins with the star to imbue their duet signing with a hauntingly lyrical quality.
Seeger's definitely an individual and listening to this gathering first evokes smiles at the loose ensemble nature, soon pulling up even more succinctly in a grinning smirk while taking in the vinegar in such songs as Home Sweet Home", decorously offset by the lullabye-ish piano figures. Obviously, Pete's not the only one who's had something to say, but then the whole Seeger family is rather known for its artistic creativity and rebelliousness. Readers may not know it, but the gorgeous The First Ever I Saw Your Face was written by husband Ewan MacColl for Peggy, and she turns in a light-spirited version recalling her love for the composer rather than weighing to the wistfull somberness Roberta Flack made famous.
Pete's brought out to thunderous applause and proceeds through a series of songs and reminiscences, including Where Have All the Flowers Gone?". On only one song, though, unfortunately, do Mark, Pete, and Peggy all play and sing together for the first time ever in a recording, a shame because hearing that trio of banjos is a delight. The BBC thought the whole thing worth recording and did so, thank goodness, as one doesn't hear this sort of confab very often anymore, reminding one of the old Weavers and other tribal gatherings, intersecting between stage performance, pub get-together, and parlor sing-along, not to mention a revivified history lesson.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2007, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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