Peggy Seeger (with her family and Tom Paley)

Here are two out-of-print albums featuring Peggy Seeger, another talented member of the Seeger family clan. The first one was recorded in 1957, before Peggy moved to England (she would spend most of her musical life there with her husband Ewan McColl). She’s accompanied with her two younger sisters Penny and Barbara. Together they sang the many folk songs they heard at home, while their parents transcribed them from field recordings. Many are children’s songs, play-parties songs and lullabies. They accompany themselves with banjo, autoharp and guitar.

The Three Sisters



The second lp, from 1965, was recorded with Tom Paley, after he left the New Lost City Ramblers and came to live in England. It’s a great collection of folk songs, played with guitar, banjo, autoharp and mountain dulcimer.

Tom Paley & Peggy Seeger 



Appleseed records issued lately a new record by Peggy Seeger with brother Mike called “Fly Down Little Bird”. It would be the last recordings Mike Seeger made before he passed away last year. Peggy and Mike wanted to record once again the folk songs they learned in their childhood, when mother Ruth Crawford Seeger would play field recordings from The Library of Congress over an over to transcribe them for songbooks. Most of the songs were recorded in 2008 at Mike’s home and this is really a “Close to Home” album. As Peggy said on the back of the disc, these are not “Children’s songs” but “Grown-up songs” as “we grew up on them”. The singing and playing of Mike and Peggy is really outstanding in its (apparent) simplicity and joyfulness. They revive this old songs with an elegant spirit and an authentic feel that is hard to match these days. This is easily one of the best folk record issued this year and a great testimony of Mike Seeger’s unique contribution to American Folk Music.

Listen to “The Dodger’s Song” , “Cindy” and “Blood Stained Banders”

-Visit Peggy Seeger’s website (you can buy “Fly Down Little Bird” there and read the lyrics of the songs)

Published in: on June 27, 2011 at 10:19 am  Comments (2)  

Morgan Sexton

I recently discovered this great banjo player and old-time singer from Kentucky called Morgan Sexton. Born in 1911 in Eastern Kentucky, he lived the tough life many mountain people encountered during the 20th century, surviving through the Depression and hard times, working with the land and in the coal mines but enjoying the sweet relief and joy of music and dance shared with his fellow neighbors. Mr. Sexton had a unique banjo-playing style, using a two-finger picking approach with thumb and index and using many different banjo tunings to play the many old-time tunes and songs of his repertoire. On his recordings made when he was past 75 years old and struggling with black lungs and cancer, he sang with a gentle and soft voice with a strong mountain accent, giving each of his performances a very intimate feel. He won a National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1990 and made a few recordings for the June Appal label. A documentary about his life can be watch on line on the Folkstreams website.

On “Shady Grove”, a cd compilation of his June Appal recordings, there are 26 tracks of his superb banjo playing and moving singing on traditional mountain songs and tunes, including some narratives.

Most interesting for me, it includes some great versions of many songs found on Harry Smith’s Anthology. As you certainly know already, I have a whole blog dedicated to the Anthology called “The Old, weird America”. I do a bit of research about every Anthology track, providing some other recordings by the artists and some variations on the songs.

Here are the tracks (in bracket is the name of the song as it appear on the Anthology):

  1. -John Henry (Gonna die with my hammer in my hand)
  2. -Old East Virginia (East Virginia)
  3. -In London City where I did dwell (The Butcher boy)
  4. -Old grey Beard (Old shoes and leggings)
  5. -Sugar Baby
  6. -Froggy-Went-a Courtin (King Kong Kitchie Ki-me-o)
  7. -Little Frankie (Frankie)
  8. -Omie Wise

Listen here

-You can purchase “Shady Grove” on the Appalshop website

Published in: on April 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm  Comments (4)  

CD review: Norman Blake & John Renbourn

With this new year starting, I was glad to see new records by two of my favourite musicians, Norman Blake and John Renbourn. One is american and the other is english, the two are masters of the acoustic guitar but represent two very different folk traditions. They both have been playing and recordings music for decades now and became each one in his own way two masters of their delicate craft, two wise old men of the Western world. Despit their different style and approch to music, what make them connected to me as a listener is their total integrity and modesty. In a music world full of gimmicks, looks and dullness, they just follow their own quiet path and continue to explore  and play the music they love best.

Norman Blake was raised in Sulphur Springs, Georgia, started as a back-up musician for people like Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, became famous in the 1970’s for his flatpicking guitar abilities and started recorded both solo and with his wife and musical partner Nancy Blake. On his records, he plays also many other string instruments (most notably mandolin, Dobro and fiddle) and sings songs he has written or songs from the Bluegrass/Old-time tradition. On his early records, one could find also great flatpicked fiddle tunes and songs he wrote that became standards like “Ginseng Sullivan”, “Church Street Blues”, or “Last train from Poor Valley”. In the 1980’s, he made great collaborations with another great flatpicker Tony Rice and explored the possibilities of a modern string band with The Rising Fawn String Ensemble. From the beginning of the 1990’s and ever since he continued to play both with his wife Nancy and with other musicians, revisiting old songs from the “hillbilly” 78rpm records he loves, traditional folk songs and melodies in a more and more epurated style, letting others trying to be the fastest flatpickers in the world, while he concentrates on the songs or tune’s own internal beauty and poetry. And with this new album, “Green Light on the Southern”, he’s doing just that, play and sing the old songs he loves, from The Carter Family, Charlie Poole, etc…just like he certainly plays them on the porch of his farm in Sulphur Springs, out of pure love and dedication to Southern folk music.

-Listen to three tracks from his new album:

“Green Light on the Southern”

“He Rambled”

“The New Spanish Two-Step”

“I’ve seen the rural music I’ve loved since childhood grow fainter and farther away in a commercial and urban- ized society that seems to care little for the charms of old fashioned southern string music and its long gone practi- tioners… Here are some of the old songs I play and sing around home, one can live by the sentiment and poetry found in many of them.” – Norman Blake

John Renbourn is one of the most important and influential British fingerstyle player of this last decades. Since the 1960’s he has played and recorded both solo, and most notably with Bert Jansh, The Pentangle and with The John Renbourn Group. From the beginning he has mixed diverse musical worlds in his playing like Country Blues, Early Music, Folk, Jazz, and created exquisite  pieces of music. In his new disc, one can feel the ghosts of Erik Satie, Jelly Roll Morton, Bach, Big Bill Broonzy, Randy Weston and Fats Domino, all present in his beautifully crafted guitar solos (and with some clarinet too on some tracks).

-Listen to three tracks from his new album:

“Palermo Snow”

“Ugly James”

“Blueberry Hill”


Published in: on February 8, 2011 at 11:13 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: ,