Various Artists

If I Had a Song: The Songs of Pete Seeger, Vol. 2

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Few songwriters encapsulate the political awareness, ecological activism, anti-war sentiment, the embracing of traditional musical forms and yearning for global peace of the folk movement than Pete Seeger. His music has affected millions, and on If I Had a Song: The Songs of Pete Seeger, Vol. 2 many of his disciples pay tribute to the songs Seeger has written or, at the very least, made popular. This release is actually the second in a trilogy of tribute albums from Appleseed Recordings that began with Where Have All the Flowers Gone: The Songs of Pete Seeger and will continue with a third disc in 2002. On this release, artists like Jackson Browne, Joan Baez, Billy Bragg, Arlo Guthrie, Eric Andersen, Dar Williams, Toshi Reagon, John Wesley Harding, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Steve Earle, Moxy Früvous, and Corey Harris pay homage to this legendary songwriter with mixed results. Some of the performances are truly inspired, such as Dar Williams and Toshi Reagon's impassioned "Oh, Had I a Golden Thread" and Eric Andersen's earthy "Snow, Snow." Steve Earle chooses a likely subject in "Walking Down Death Row," performing it with his usual gruff earnestness, and it's fun to hear an older Seeger and Arlo Guthrie harmonizing like they did twenty years ago on 1982's Precious Friend. Unfortunately, as was the case with the first tribute album, some of the tracks are a little weak, such as John McCutcheon and Corey Harris rap version of "Talking Union," and (surprisingly) Billy Bragg and Eliza Carthy's off the cuff version of "If I Had a Hammer." None of the songs are as great as the originals, but, Seeger himself states in the liner notes, "the world is full of cooks changing old recipes to fit new stomachs" and "lawyers changing old laws to fit new citizens," and since this is a textbook definition of the folk music process rolling onward, it is a success.

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