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American Favorite Ballads, Vol. 4

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Album Review

By the time it reached its third volume in 1959, Folkways Records' series of Pete Seeger albums called American Favorite Ballads seemed to be running out of gas, as Seeger re-recorded old Weavers hits like "Goodnight Irene" and "Wimoweh" (the latter, of course, not even American). But arriving after two years in 1961, American Favorite Ballads, Vol. 4 seems much closer to the series' original intent to present a variety of generally well-known, traditional American folk songs in Seeger's inimitable style. Variety is the key here, as Seeger ranges from a murder ballad ("Banks of the Ohio") to a patriotic anthem ("America the Beautiful"), with comic novelties ("Hole in the Bucket") contrasting with plaintive anti-war statements ("Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier"), a children's tune ("Froggie Went A-Courtin'"), and a spiritual ("Go Down Moses"), not to mention a raucous sea chantey ("What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor?") and a hyperbolic and hilarious tale of army life ("Gee, But I Want to Go Home"). The ringer in the bunch is "You Are My Sunshine," which might sound like an old song, but really dates only from 1940, when its co-author, Jimmie Davis, introduced it. (It went on to help him become governor of Louisiana.) No matter. Seeger continues to contemporize a wide range of American folk music with performances that are unfailingly engaging. [A reissue added 16 songs taken from other Seeger Folkways recordings, including nine from the 1962 album American Favorite Ballads, Vol. 5; a smattering of cuts from material he recorded for Folkways in the '50s; and even a previously unreleased performance (date not given) of "Old Maid's Song."]

Biography

Born: 03 May 1919 in New York, NY

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Perhaps no single person in the 20th century did more to preserve, broadcast, and redistribute folk music than Pete Seeger, whose passion for politics, the environment, and humanity earned him both ardent fans and vocal enemies ever since he first began performing in the late '30s. His battle against injustice led to his being blacklisted during the McCarthy era, celebrated during the turbulent '60s, and welcomed at union rallies throughout his life. His tireless efforts regarding global concerns...
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