Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger's Family Concert

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Two weeks shy of his 73rd birthday, Pete Seeger released this, his first solo album since 1980 and his first musical album for children since 1974. He is in surprisingly good voice for his age, still able to reach high notes, although, as usual, his chief attribute as a singer is his engagement with his listeners, to whom he is particularly attuned here. They sound, at least on some tracks, like a small and young crowd (there is some aural evidence that performances from different sources have been blended together), and they are happy to sing along. The selection is not exclusively child-oriented; in fact, it is in some respects a fairly typical Seeger concert program, just with a little more children's material than usual. The singer's Hudson Valley locale comes in for several references in his remarks and in songs like "The River That Flows Both Ways" (that would be the Hudson), and he is not averse to slipping in his political viewpoint here and there, for instance singing a new verse to "This Land Is Your Land" that contains a Native American complaint about mistreatment. Seeger seems to be singing for an audience that gets older over the course of the show, at least as far as the progression of the songs goes. Early on, he is leading singalongs on tunes like "Skip to My Lou" and "Coming Round the Mountain" (the latter complete with kid-friendly sound effects). But after singing and reciting his popular story-song, here printed as "Abi Yo Yo" rather than "Abiyoyo," the final section of the concert is less child-oriented. What are youngsters to make of "Guantanamera" or the claim in Woody Guthrie's "Lonesome Valley" that "we [will] win that one big union by and by"? Maybe that doesn't matter as long as there are catchy choruses that parents and children can join in on. Or maybe, by calling this a "family concert," Seeger signals that he is singing as much for the grown-ups as the kids.

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