Various Artists

The Folk Music of the Newport Folk Festival, Vol. 1: 1959-60

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This LP differs from the more familiar Vanguard Records or Elektra Records accounts of the Newport Folk Festivals of the same years, as producer Moses Asch reached further, wider, and deeper in his selection of artists. Thus, he opens with then 78-year-old O.J. Abbott's haunting unaccompanied rendition of "On the Banks of the Don," before bringing the seemingly heavier-weight artillery of Abbott with Pete Seeger (accompanying on vocals and banjo) and jumping headfirst into rural folk-blues with "I'm a Stranger Here," performed by Willie B. Thomas and Butch Cage (who follow it up with the raw, rocking "44 Blues"). Pat Clancy's beautiful (and wonderfully extended) unaccompanied "Mighty Bunch O-Roses-O" and Mike Seeger's gorgeous autoharp-driven "Fair Ellender" close out the LP's first side, and the second side is devoted to more high-profile talents: Pete Seeger (banjo and vocals), Allan Mills (unaccompanied and amazingly powerful), and Frank Hamilton (resplendent in bluesy vocals and guitar); Hamilton ends this album on a superb note, with a performance of "I Am a Pilgrim" that, as they say, leaves you wanting more. The mix of sounds here hasn't lost its potency one whit in 50 years, and why this material isn't out on CD is a mystery. Indeed, the only flaw that one can find in the content of its 11 songs is that no room was made for any female performers.

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