Credited to Pete Seeger and "the Hooteneers," this album is a collection of archival recordings of songs associated with the early days of Sing Out! magazine that were made between 1950 and 1955, some of which were released on singles by the now-defunct Hootenanny Records label (e.g., Betty Sanders' "Talking Un-American Blues"). The tracks are not well annotated in the album's booklet, so that it's not clear who the lead singers are on the tracks "I've Got a Right," "Boll Weevil," and "We Shall Overcome" (which is an a cappella choral rendition with a female leader). Elsewhere, Seeger takes solo leads on nearly half of the material, and sometimes he combines with his fellow former Weavers member Fred Hellerman and with Leon Bibb. Sanders, a lively contralto in the style of the Weavers ' Ronnie Gilbert, also has several lead vocals. As Sing Out! editor Irwin Silber acknowledges in his liner notes, the songs often exhibit a topicality and a political viewpoint that is "left of liberal," extolling the virtues of union organizing and caustically criticizing racial segregation and aspects of the McCarthy Era anti-Communist witch hunt that bedeviled Seeger among others ("Talking Un-American Blues," "In Contempt"). But there are also historical numbers ("Jefferson and Liberty") and old Leadbelly favorites ("Boll Weevil," "The Gray Goose"). The collection presents a good cross section of the state of urban folk music in the early '50s. It's only too bad some of the singers are unidentified.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: Leon Bibb