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Big Bill Broonzy: Platinum Series (Remastered)

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Album Review

As part of its deal with Verve Records, Folkways Records has provided this tape of a joint concert by Big Bill Broonzy and Pete Seeger, performed at Northwestern University in 1956 and recorded by WFMT radio. Broonzy, in his early sixties, was two years away from his death; Seeger was in his mid-thirties. Each singer was clearly accustomed to performing as a solo, and their banter in this informal song pull was both friendly and also a bit awkward, with Seeger getting the worst of it, if only because his typical affected casualness came to seem a little more affected than usual. Nevertheless, after joining together on "Midnight Special," the two managed some representative individual performances from their repertories, ranging from Broonzy's mixture of old folk songs and old pop songs ("The Glory of Love," "Why Don't You Come Home Bill Bailey") to Seeger's politically oriented folk (the anti-war "Mrs. McGrath"), and borrowed classical material ("Goofin' Off Suite," with its Beethoven arranged for banjo). The editing of the tape is sometimes abrupt, and as the singers reach the end of the disc, they make it sound like they're just breaking for intermission. But both come off effectively before an appreciative audience.


Born: 26 June 1893 in Scott, MS

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s

Big Bill Broonzy was born William Lee Conley Broonzy in the tiny town of Scott, Mississippi, just across the river from Arkansas. During his childhood, Broonzy's family -- itinerant sharecroppers and the descendants of ex-slaves -- moved to Pine Bluff to work the fields there. Broonzy learned to play a cigar box fiddle from his uncle, and as a teenager, he played violin in local churches, at community dances, and in a country string band. During World War I, Broonzy enlisted in the U.S. Army, and...
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