Sing Out with Pete!

Pete Seeger

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Sing Out with Pete! Review

by William Ruhlmann

In early 1961, Pete Seeger, long the flagship artist of the tiny Folkways Records label, signed to the major label Columbia Records. In August 1961, Columbia released the first product of the association, the live LP Story Songs. But Folkways, which under the terms of the agreement could continue to exploit its association with Seeger, countered the same month with its own new Seeger live album, Sing Out with Pete! The release was cobbled together from unused parts of concerts Folkways had previously mined for albums, including a set with the late Big Bill Broonzy that produced the leadoff track, "Study War No More (Down by the Riverside)," and a couple of selections ("I'm on My Way to Canaan's Land," "Hold On") from Seeger's show at the Village Gate in the company of Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon. Another bluesman, Lightnin' Hopkins, makes an appearance on "Oh, Mary Don't You Weep." As those song titles suggest, this is a collection frequently consisting of spirituals that had been taken over by the civil rights movement. But it is also a miscellany in which Seeger contributes an antiwar folk song ("Mrs. McGrath"), a song in German from the Spanish Civil War ("Freiheit"), and a couple of his greatest hits ("Wimoweh," "If I Had a Hammer [Hammer Song]"). As usual, he exerts himself to get his audiences -- whether at Yale or Chicago universities, at Carnegie Hall, or in the tiny Village Gate in Greenwich Village -- not only to sing along, but to do so in multi-part harmony. Folkways' abrupt editing, which cuts off applause and even the last syllable of the last word on occasion, interrupts the flow, but then this is a grab bag, not a fully realized concert recording.

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