|Recording information: Boston, MA (04/02/2004); Lexington, VA (04/02/2004); WAMC, Albany, NY (04/02/2004); Boston, MA (08/2008); Lexington, VA (08/2008); WAMC, Albany, NY (08/2008); Boston, MA (11/2008); Lexington, VA (11/2008); WAMC, Albany, NY (11/2008).
|Mike and Peggy Seeger are the slightly less-famous folksinging siblings of Pete Seeger. Each is actually very well known in folkie circles, but neither has enjoyed the worldwide fame of older brother Pete, though each has been equally dedicated to the performance and preservation of traditional American (and, to some extent, British) tunes and songs; Mike founded the New Lost City Ramblers during the late-'50s folk boom in New York City, while Peggy famously collected and published children's folk songs and eventually married the great English folksinger Ewan MacColl (who wrote "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" for her). The two siblings followed different personal and musical paths over the years, but got back together in 2008, shortly before Mike's death from cancer at age 75, to record a program of songs that they had learned from their mother, the composer Ruth Crawford Seeger. Both are multi-instrumentalists, and on this album they switch instruments regularly, playing various combinations of banjo, fiddle, guitar, slide guitar, harmonica, piano, and other instruments, both of them singing as well. Many of the songs will be familiar to their fellow folkies: numbers like "Little Birdie," "Old Bangum," and "My Home's Across the Blue Ridge Mountains" all exist in scores if not hundreds of versions. Others will be less familiar, and surprisingly (given the Seeger family's unapologetic political leanings) only one of them -- the wry "The Farmer's the Man" -- deals in any direct way with the predations of capital. Everything is sung with warm, sweet-spirited directness and the playing is often close to virtuosic, but the sound quality leaves a little bit to be desired; it's rather muted and dull, as if it had been recorded 40 or 50 years earlier. Still, the Seegers' love for the music and for each other comes through loud and clear, and the album is a treasure. ~ Rick Anderson