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PEGGY SEEGER - Peggy Seeger Live

PEGGY SEEGER - Peggy Seeger Live
Appleseed Recordings  APRCD1129

Gosh, I so wanted to love this CD because I really admire Peggy Seeger and have reviewed her work favourably in the past.  She is a phenomenal force for GOOD in this world, and in her mid seventies, still sounds as youthful as she did when I first bought an album of her performing with her late brother Mike, some 40 years ago.

Also, I wanted to really enthuse over this because typical of her great altruistic nature, this is the recording of a concert she did for free for a good cause: the rebuilding of an arson-damaged women’s centre in New Zealand.  And no reviewer wants to be less than 100% gracious, when charitable acts are involved.

Yes, dear reader, I know you can feel a “but” coming on.  And here it comes.

That I did not fall head over heels in love with this album was due in some measure to the audience.  Not since Johnny Cash whipped up a frenzy with the inmates in San Quentin, have I heard an audience so “up for it”.  Now this of course can be a tribute to the charisma of the artiste: and indeed, Peggy works the audience with aplomb.  But there is a narrow dividing line between an enthusiastic audience and a claque, and sometimes things get a bit blurred here.

The content of much of the 23 tracks is unashamedly feminist, but that fact did not alienate this male reviewer.  There are some witty spoken observations: “The Personals” being funny, and - from her own pen-The Eagle And Condom  exhibiting a more biting wit.  That old faithful traditional Loving Hannah (with some sublime harp accompaniment here from Bob Bickerton) is the standout track.  In this delivery, I noted Peggy choosing to sing “they say she is good-natured” in place of the far more common “she is quite good-looking” line, but I know it to be a time-honoured variant, so I am not seeing it as Political Correctness raising its head.  Loving Hannah just shades it from her own celebrated song I’m Gonna Be An Engineer and her Everything Changes, a song she wrote for her late mother, Ruth Crawford Seeger, a woman considered the foremost American female composer of modernist music in the “late early to mid” 1900s.  Strike the word “song”: it is more her innermost thoughts of the past, with her soul laid bare in a truly moving way.  It put a tear in my eye, for sure.

The nadir has to be Bought Me A Cat, an apparently beloved children’s song in America, but one that made me long for the comparative brevity of Burl Ives and his I Know An Old Lady.  But hey, methinks I ought to remember that I was a kid once, and lighten up.

And perhaps reflect that this CD is largely an exercise in nostalgia, and on the whole, is a work that is on the side of the angels.  And I conclude that despite my slight reservations, Peggy Seeger here is in fine form.  The quality of the live recording matches her performance and is top-notch.

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 92 of The Living Tradition magazine.