Friday, March 16, 2007
EXPECT A CROWD ONSTAGE whenever the Seeger family celebrates one of its own. Turning up for folk music luminary Peggy Seeger's 70th birthday bash in London almost two years ago were brother Mike Seeger and half-brother Pete Seeger, plus an additional cast of offspring, friends and kindred spirits, including Martin Carthy, Norma Waterson, Eliza Carthy and Billy Bragg. Listening to "Three Score and Ten," a double-disc recording of the event, you get the feeling that there's always another grateful Peggy Seeger devotee waiting in the wings.
Of course, there are lots of family-brand banjo sounds from Mike and Pete, though Peggy also picks up the instrument when she isn't playing piano, concertina, autoharp or guitar. Bragg sounds perfectly at home covering her pro-union anthem "If You Want a Better Life" in a plainspoken, Woody Guthrie-like manner, while Pete Seeger deservedly steps into the spotlight for a string of tunes that includes "Take It From Dr. King." Another highlight, albeit a purely musical one, finds Carthy on acoustic guitar, bringing a soulful lilt to the traditional tune "Humours of Bandon."
The second disc, incidentally, opens on an elegiac note, with Peggy reciting a poem she wrote for late husband Ewan MacColl, best known on this side of the Atlantic for composing "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." Seeger, who inspired that lyric, then quietly segues into a wistful, warmly affecting rendition of MacColl's signature ballad. It's among the reasons why "Three Score and Ten" seems to hold double-digit rewards.
-- Mike Joyce
Appearing with Mike Seeger and special guest Pete Seeger on Saturday at the Woodside United Methodist Church in Silver Spring.