Pete Seeger

Genius of Folk

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These live tracks, which feature a relaxed Pete Seeger and his banjo, were most likely recorded in the mid-'50s and have been released in varying sequences under several different titles over the years, including Folk Music of the World, Pete Seeger Concert, Forever Gold, and Genius of Folk. The sound isn't the best, which, depending on your point of view, either makes these a charming and intimate set of archival recordings or a poorly engineered waste of time. A clear highlight comes when Seeger explains to the audience how the Weavers' version of "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" was derived from a folk song that Leadbelly performed that was in turn learned from singer Sam Kennedy. The song, "Drimmin Down," was an old Irish lament about a dead cow. Seeger loved the melody, but had trouble remembering the words (as did Leadbelly, apparently), and gradually a more romantic set of lyrics emerged that expunged the dead cow references. It's no secret that Seeger was an activist with a clear political agenda, but these tracks, poorly recorded as some of them are, nevertheless illustrate a trait that is often overlooked in most evaluations of Seeger's long career: he has always been, politics and agenda aside, an accomplished entertainer, able to captivate audiences anywhere with just a banjo and his clear, Everyman tenor.

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