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Weavers

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Album Review

The Weavers at Home is the Weavers' third Vanguard Records album following The Weavers at Carnegie Hall and The Weavers on Tour, and as its title suggests, it represents the group's first studio recordings since leaving Decca Records in 1953. But they have not returned to the orchestral settings they used on many of the Decca tracks; the instrumentation remains spare, with just Fred Hellerman's acoustic guitar, a banjo, and occasional harmonica passages. (The one exception is "Tina," which features uncredited trumpet and bongos.) Things start out the way any Weavers fan might expect, with a spirited performance of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," and they end 40 minutes later with an equally lively reading of "Howard's Dead and Gone," and in between are more of the kinds of group efforts the Weavers are known for. But the underlying motivating factor of this album, one only barely acknowledged, is the departure of Pete Seeger and his replacement by Erik Darling, a transition that the LP embodies, since Darling (though credited only as a "guest artist") stands in for Seeger on five songs — "Meet the Johnson Boys," "Come Little Donkey," "Kum Bachura," "All Night Long," and "You Old Fool." Given that a few other tracks are solo performances, Seeger is actually absent from about half of the disc. And there's more to it than that. Seeger has only one lead vocal, a remake of his and group member Lee Hays' "Empty Pockets Blues," which he previously sang on his 1955 solo album The Goofing-Off Suite. Otherwise, even when he is singing and playing, he's largely in the background. So is Darling on his "guest" appearances. Thus, this is a Weavers album on which Ronnie Gilbert (who solos on the Spanish-language song "Eres Alta" and "Every Night") and Fred Hellerman (with showcases including "Come Little Donkey" and "Let the Midnight Special") really stand out, as does Hays, even in a group context on "All Night Long" and his duet with Gilbert on "You Old Fool." With Seeger's gradual exit, the Weavers are becoming a different group with a more even balance among the members. But, as such stirring numbers as the African "Tina" (a "Wimoweh"-like song sung in the Xhosa language) and "Aunt Rhodie" show, they are losing something with the departure of their star.

Biography

Formed: 1948 in New York, NY

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '80s

The Weavers had the most extraordinary musical pedigree and pre-history of any performing group in the history of folk or popular music. More than 50 years after their heyday, however, their origins, the level of their success, the forces that cut the group's future off in its prime, and the allure that keeps their music selling are all difficult to explain — as, indeed, none of this...
Full Bio