By mid-1963, 44-year-old Pete Seeger had been cleared of the charges of Contempt of Congress stemming from his 1955 testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and a major label, Columbia Records, was preparing to release what would be his most successful LP, We Shall Overcome, drawn from his appearance in June at Carnegie Hall. But he continued to be blacklisted from network television in the U.S. Having regained his passport, he embarked on a world tour in August and discovered on his second stop in Australia that a different attitude obtained in the national media. There, he was a visiting folk star, and television was only too happy to accommodate him. This black-and-white video documents his Australia media blitz of September 1963, starting with a concert filmed before 3,000 fans (some of them seated on-stage) in Melbourne. Engineers have succeeded in restoring the bulk of the show from aging videotape, resulting in an hour and 45 minutes of music, during which Seeger turns in a typical set including old American folk songs, a clutch of Woody Guthrie compositions, a segment of international folk music, and even some of the music of young American songwriters Tom Paxton and Bob Dylan. He exhibits a calm authority as a stage figure, switching back and forth between banjo and 12-string guitar, and, as usual, teaching his listeners to sing along in harmony. Other lessons are political, as the songs touch on war and other social concerns, and Seeger makes a point of referring to the bombing of a church in Birmingham, AL, that had killed four black schoolgirls the day before. The DVD contains an hour's worth of extras that demonstrate Seeger spent a lot of time on TV while in Australia. He is interviewed by several different television personalities, gamely answering questions like "What is folk music?" and singing songs in the studio and at other concerts. Then there is a half-hour show he hosts himself, Two Links of a Chain, in which he pays tribute to his major influence, Leadbelly, sings and plays Leadbelly's songs, and introduces the only extant film footage of Leadbelly himself performing in 1945. Turning to one of his favorite activities, Seeger demonstrates the function of work songs by singing while chopping wood, right there in the television studio, with wood chips sometimes flying off toward startled members of the audience! In a final extra, he interviews a local folksinger, Duke Tritton, who reminisces about his days as a sheep shearer and sings a song about the profession. Clearly, Seeger himself could have been a TV star in some alternate universe in which his politics weren't held against him.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Woody Guthrie Medley: I'm Gonna Mail Myself to You/Put Your Finger in the Air/Union Maid/The Ladies' Auxiliary/Roll On Columbia, Roll On
feat: Duke Tritton