Pete Seeger / Lorre Wyatt

A More Perfect Union

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At age 93, Pete Seeger isn't actually retiring, just slowing down a bit. He's doing fewer concerts and his voice is a bit wobbly, but his heart is still open and his mind is still sharp. If you need proof, listen to the 16 songs on this album, 15 of them newly written by Seeger and his longtime friend and collaborator Lorre Wyatt. Wyatt's in his mid-sixties, and a well-known singer/songwriter in his own right, but a severe stroke in 1996 left him unable to sing or play guitar for almost 15 years. After a long intensive recovery, he's singing and playing again and asked Seeger to collaborate with him on a songwriting project he was working on. Seeger agreed and the result is A More Perfect Union, a great album that stands as a testament to the faith and resilience of both artists. This may be the first album that Seeger's ever recorded that contains all new, all original material, and many of the tunes here are as good as anything Seeger or Wyatt has ever written or recorded. Most of the songs deal with aging and mortality, but the album is uplifting nonetheless. Both men have led full lives and they bring a lot of humor and wisdom to the songs. Musically, the album is as diverse as anything Seeger's ever cut. "God's Counting on Me...God's Counting on You" and "Wonderful Friends" are the kinds of elevating anthems Seeger has always sung, and this one should be added to his list of greatest hits. Dozens of harmony singers, including Bruce Springsteen on "God's Counting on Me...," make them sound like campfire singalongs. "Keep the Flame Alive" is a country-flavored ode to aging well that's given a poignant feel by Seeger's shaky vocals and C. Lanzbom's mournful slide guitar. Seeger sings "Strange Lullaby" solo; it's an antiwar song full of love and righteous anger. "These Days in Zimbabwe" is sung a cappella by Wyatt with Jeff Haynes providing percolating Afro-Celtic percussion that makes this gentle protest song swing. Wyatt's most famous song, and the only older tune on the album, is "Somos el Barco" (We Are the Boat), a lilting Latin-flavored waltz that features Emmylou Harris and another big singalong chorale. The set closes with two mediations on the end of life. "Fields of Harmony" is a testament to the power of music to enrich and preserve life, and Dave Eggar's cello gives the number an aching, tender feel. The loping cowboy rhythm of "Bountiful River" makes it sound like another anthem, a salute to friendship, music, and the healing power of nature with a gorgeous, timeless chorus.

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