Pete Seeger

A Fish That's a Song

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Ostensibly, this compilation of tracks from Folkways recordings was assembled to accompany an exhibit of the oddball art collection of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr., at the National Museum of Art, part of the Smithsonian Institution, which also controls the Folkways catalog. Hemphill's collection is full of strange folk-art pieces (Howard Finster, who actually has a spoken word track here, is a favorite), and sometimes the connections between them, as photographed in the CD booklet, and the songs can be tenuous. Better, then, simply to judge this as a sampler of some of the children's music issued by Folkways over the years, of which there was plenty. In fact, some of Folkways' best-selling records were children's records, by Woody Guthrie (who gets two selections here) and others. Intended, according to the notes, for children four to eight years old, the songs are sometimes perfect for small children, such as "Great Green Gobs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts," as sung a cappella by Pete Seeger's daughter Mika Seeger when she herself was about ten. Sometimes, they have no obvious connection to children, such as Sonny Terry's harmonica instrumental "Lonesome Train" or Elizabeth Cotten's folk classic "Freight Train," but are great performances anyway. The album thus doubles as a general Folkways sampler that ranges from the usual American folk performers who made the label famous, such as Guthrie and Pete Seeger, to field recordings (Jim Nollman's "Froggie Went A-Courtin'" is accompanied by "300 turkeys") and more exotic fare.

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