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Fifty Sail on Newburgh Bay and Other Songs of the Hudson River

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Album Review

Unlike other recent albums credited to Pete Seeger and somebody else (notably 1974's Pete Seeger & Brother Kirk Visit Sesame Street and 1975's Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie: Together in Concert), Fifty Sail on Newburgh Bay, credited to Seeger and Ed Renehan, comes off as a genuine duo album, not a disc on which the two performers alternate solo tracks most of the time. In song after song, Seeger and Renehan harmonize together, although there are songs in which Seeger sings the verses solo and Renehan (sometimes along with unnamed others) joins in on the choruses. The LP is subtitled "Hudson Valley Songs, Old & New," and that's what it contains. Seeger, of course, has long lived on the Hudson River, and has devoted much of his time to environmental concerns there. This album is more of a history of the river than a political tract, however. It begins with a Native American chant, "Kayowjajineh," then follows with a series of newly written songs with lyrics by William Gekle and music by Seeger (sometimes adapted from old folk tunes) telling stories from Colonial days. After these, there is more traditional fare, with subjects including the "Erie Canal"; the 19th century rent rebellion depicted in "Big Bill Snyder"; the lament of a spurned girl from "Tarrytown"; whaling ships in "The Hudson Whalers"; and the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves traveling up the Hudson in "Follow the Drinking Gourd." Some of these are songs Seeger has sung before, but there is also enough new material to offer many different aspects of the album's river theme, and Renehan proves a worthy companion on the journey.

Fifty Sail on Newburgh Bay and Other Songs of the Hudson River, Ed Renehan
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