Living Music 2016
Review by David Bowling
Pete Seeger walked this earth for nearly 95 years. He was a radio personality during the 1940’s, a member of the early folk-revival group The Weavers, and as a solo artist spent nearly five decades promoting peace and the environment, writing such songs as “Where Hale All The Flowers Gone,” “If I Had A Hammer,” and “Turn Turn Turn,” plus resurrecting folk songs from around the world.
Since his death, there have been a number of re-issues. The latest is a remaster of his first Grammy winning album Pete, originally issued in 1996 at the age of 77. This release is combined with a DVD that covers 23 years of his career. First is a 55 minute live performance with Paul Winter and friends at the 1982 Living Music Festival in Litchfield, Connecticut. Next is Pete-nic, which is a 17 minute spontaneous performance, recorded at a picnic in 1997 by many of the musicians who had participated in the Pete project. Finally there is a 2005 performance of “Take It From Dr. King,” commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Pettus Bridge March in Selma, Alabama.
Pete is probably the best of his late career releases. It combines traditional folk tunes, a number of covers, and two originals. “John Henry,” “Drunken Sailor,” “Roll The Old Chariot Along,” and “Old Time Religion” are the type of songs that have graced Seeger’s repertoire for most of his career. Songs that have no known author but have undergone changes due to time and place and Seeger’s interpretations are another link in their chain. The two originals, “My Rainbow Race” and “Well May The World Go” are poignant songs from a man nearing 80.
Most of Seeger’s albums have been sparse affairs but here many of the songs are within a band setting, including sax, cello and guitars. It is a rare nod to the modern age by a traditional artist.
The Living Music Festival live performance presents a 63 year old Seeger at the top of his profession. He is joined by The Paul Winter Consort and they form one big group. Seeger is relaxed and his banjo play is some of his best. The concert was recorded with three cameras and meant for release but sat in the vaults for 33 years. It is a highlight for any Seeger fan.
Seeger was an uncompromising traditionalist. Many of his songs had a meaning and message. Pete-Pac is a celebration of culture meeting music.