Gazette, Vol. 2

Pete Seeger

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Gazette, Vol. 2 Review

by William Ruhlmann

A follow-up to Pete Seeger's 1958 album Gazette, the 1961 second volume presents 13 more topical songs written over the last 25 years and expressing left-wing political sentiments, some of them directly related to the singer. Seeger, as usual, casts back to his primary mentors, reviving Woody Guthrie's "The Dying Miner," the tale of a coal mine disaster told from the inside, and Leadbelly's "Bourgeois Blues," a criticism of the segregationist policies of Washington, D.C., in the '40s. He examines Nazism in "Moorsoldaten (Peat Bog Soldiers)," corporatism in Malvina Reynolds' "The Rand Hymn," and unemployment in "When a Fellow Is Out of a Job." "I Come and Stand at Every Door" is an indictment of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima sung in the voice of a dead child, and "The Easter Marchers" deals with the same subject from the standpoint of contemporary non-proliferation activists. One of the most recent selections is "The Literacy Test Song," which references the 1960 presidential election and satirizes the tests used in Southern states to deny voting rights to blacks. But the most personal songs on the disc are "Hold the Line" and "The Jack Ash Society." The former, written and first recorded by the Weavers, Seeger's old group, tells the story of the stoning of departing audience members from an open-air Paul Robeson concert by right-wing extremists in Peekskill, NY, in September 1949, one of those audience members being Seeger himself. "Jack Ash," meanwhile, should be read not only "Jackass," but also as a euphemism for the far-right John Birch Society, and the song gives Seeger a forum for criticizing various conservative political elements, including the House Un-American Activities Committee, which had bedeviled him for half-a-dozen years at this point. As this recording demonstrates, he remains unbowed, telling his side while vigorously strumming his banjo.

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