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Early Southern Guitar Styles

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Album Review

Folklorist/singer/multi-instrumentalist Mike Seeger may not bear the cultural weight of his better-known cousin Pete, but between the two a veritable encyclopedia set of sepia-tone Americana resides. Seeger's follow-up to his excellent 2003 Smithsonian Folkways release True Vine is as much a historical artifact as it is the perfect front porch/parlor room soundtrack for a hot summer's day. Early Southern Guitar Sounds is just that, a 28-track musical lecture on the styles, body shapes, and songs that mythically described the guitar from around 1850 to 1930. Seeger takes the listener through ragtime, blues, Celtic-infused old-timey ballads and straight up traditional folk and country on a multitude of different instruments, from pre-World War I arch tops to a turn of the century banjo, lending his voice to a few and his formidable instrumental skills to the majority. This isn't flashy or progressive noodling, rather it's the musical equivalent of the slow food movement, offering up samples of cuisine that haven't seen a dinner table since the first World War, let alone been injected with any commercial additives. As with all Smithsonian Folkways releases, Early Southern Guitar Sounds features exhaustive liner notes that include dissertation-worthy descriptions of playing styles, detailed photos of period instruments, and song-by-song histories that make you want convert your listening room into an old oak library or pine box saloon.


Born: August 15, 1933 in New York, NY

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

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

Born into one of the first families of American folk music, it was probably inevitable that Mike Seeger would become a musician and folklorist. His father and mother, Charles and Ruth Crawford Seeger, assisted John and Alan Lomax at the Archive of Folk Song in the Library of Congress. Mike's half-brother, Pete Seeger, performed in both the Almanac Singers and the Weavers, while his sister Peggy Seeger was highly regarded in traditional music circles. There was little surprise, then, when Mike Seeger,...
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