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Review: Pete Remembers Woody-Atlantic pans them

Lonesome EJ 24 Sep 12 - 05:35 PM
Desert Dancer 24 Sep 12 - 06:35 PM
Desert Dancer 24 Sep 12 - 06:57 PM
Charley Noble 24 Sep 12 - 07:09 PM
GUEST,mando-player-91 24 Sep 12 - 07:21 PM
michaelr 24 Sep 12 - 07:56 PM
Desert Dancer 24 Sep 12 - 08:15 PM
Desert Dancer 24 Sep 12 - 08:18 PM
Lonesome EJ 25 Sep 12 - 01:08 AM
Joe Offer 25 Sep 12 - 06:11 AM
Elmore 25 Sep 12 - 11:01 AM
Desert Dancer 25 Sep 12 - 11:57 AM
meself 25 Sep 12 - 12:15 PM
Elmore 25 Sep 12 - 01:41 PM
Stewie 25 Sep 12 - 08:12 PM
Stringsinger 26 Sep 12 - 11:55 AM
Stringsinger 26 Sep 12 - 12:07 PM
GUEST,999 26 Sep 12 - 12:13 PM
Desert Dancer 26 Sep 12 - 10:26 PM
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Subject: The Atlantic Pans Pete and Woody
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 05:35 PM

Politicians rather than musicians?

Shocking and provocative to attack our icons in this manner. Interesting article none the less.


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Subject: Review: Pete Remembers Woody set
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 06:35 PM

This review at The Atlantic online,

"Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie: More Politicians Than Musicians",

is a combination of a review of the performances on

Appleseed Recordings 2-cd "Pete Seeger: Pete Remembers Woody" set

and an essay that maybe merely reflects one person's distaste for "short shelf-life" (Tom Paxton's term) political songs that are past their sell-by date.

The article is subtitled, "Seeger's latest ventures reveal the dirty secret of Popular Front folk: Their tunes weren't that great."

Halfway down the review, writer Noah Berlatsky provides his bona fides, saying, "My parents were folk-revival fans, and I've been listening to Pete and Woody as long as I've been listening to anything", and he also says, "Political art doesn't have to be lousy art. James Baldwin's essays are some of my favorite prose writing ever, and I'll happily swear by Black Sabbath's "War Pigs.""

But he goes on to say, "... while politics and art can go together, the bland bonhomie of Popular Front folk music is tied closely to its didacticism."

He says that on this set, "those politics are front and center, as Seeger provides what is essentially a two hour hagiography for his friend and mentor. "

This review doesn't tease apart a few different strands here: Woody as a songwriter, Woody as a performer, and the difficulties of combining politics and art.

He says, "would anybody in their right mind rather listen to him than to his influences like the Carter Family or Jimmy Rodgers? Or his contemporaries like Bill Monroe and Rosetta Tharpe? Or acolytes like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell? Guthrie may have been a decent performer, but he was never incandescent."

And then, "[Woody's] legacy is due not to the power or depth of his music, but rather to his lyrical facility—and perhaps most of all, to the sensational and unusual match between his more-or-less working-class background and his definitively Marxist politics. For middle-class leftists like Seeger or Alan Lomax, an Okie hillbilly Communist singer seemed like the holy grail of working class authenticity: a validation of their politics, their music, and of the connection between the two."

This set has only a couple of performances from Woody's era, and only one or two of him. Seeger mostly contributes audio reminiscenses, rather than singing (given his vocal limitations at age 93). Several tracks are done by Work O' the Weavers, whose singing Berlatsky calls "soulless" and compares to the performances in the spoof movie, "A Mighty Wind". (See the Appleseed link above for the full track list and performers.)

Berlatsky concludes with this statement -- about Seeger [I thought we were discussing Woody's songs here??]: "He's a man of great conscience, integrity, and spirit whose songs are, nonetheless, filled far too often with joyless platitudes. Maybe that's something else to blame Communism for, I don't know. But I do know that, as much as I admire him personally, and as much as I wish there were more dedicated men and women like him now riding around singing union songs, I don't much want to listen to these CDs again."


It does look to me like this set does have a different audience in mind than others that have come out in recent years that either are seeking new audiences for Woody using contemporary performers who are not naturally associated with him or thrilling collectors with comprehensive new releases of his original recordings. Given the amount of spoken word (maybe more than a third of the tracks) and the use of performers who are folk festival favorites but not so commercially known, maybe it's meant for the hard-core but relatively folkie who looking to learn more about the era or for the hard-core Woody/Pete fan who will enjoy hearing Seeger's stories.

I look forward to reading further reviews elsewhere and here at the 'Cat.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Review: Pete Remembers Woody set
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 06:57 PM

Here is the information from the Appleseed website for "Pete Seeger: Pete Remembers Woody".

~ Becky in Tucson

It takes one who knew one: firsthand spoken-word reminiscences about America's first great topical songwriter, Woody Guthrie, by his friend, compatriot, and successor, plus classic Guthrie songs by Pete, Woody, son Arlo and others.

It's no overstatement to say that American music and America itself would be very different without the lasting influence of the late singer/songwriter Woody Guthrie (1912 – 1967). He was the prototype of the 20th Century rambling minstrel, turning his travels and observations into a huge body of topical and timeless music – songs that contrasted our country's natural glories and sociopolitical shames, pro-labor songs, both pro- and anti-war songs, kids' songs, patriotic and "left-wing" songs, music for everyday people to think about as they sing.

When the 21-year-old Pete Seeger first met Guthrie, six years his senior, backstage at a benefit concert in 1940, he was enthralled by Guthrie's music, lyrical vision, and charisma. The two men started traveling and performing together, which was, in Pete's words, his own "big, big education in learning about America." On the new 2-CD Pete Remembers Woody, Pete recounts his vivid firsthand reminiscences, wide-ranging and frequently humorous, of Woody's adult life – Guthrie's transmutation of his experiences and omnivorous readings into popular although often controversial songs, his tips on freight-hopping and saloon singing, encounters with musical contemporaries Leadbelly and others, and many of the life lessons Pete has subsequently used in his own career, still ongoing in this Centennial year of Guthrie's birth.

Interspersed with Pete's recollections of Woody are versions of some of Guthrie's most famous songs performed by idealistic links in the topical music chain like Arlo Guthrie (dueting with Pete on one of the few Woody-Seeger co-writes, "66 Highway Blues"), the Work o' the Weavers ("This Land is Your Land," "So Long, It's Been Good to Know Yuh!"), CD producer David Bernz, whose own three-part "Woody's Ghost" serves to bookend and provide an intermission between the two CDs, and Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, who added music to Woody's lyrics for "Howdy Little Newlycome." The Vanaver Caravan, the 40-year-old troupe of musicians and dancers, performs the Depression plaint "Do Re Mi," "Union Maid," "Pastures of Plenty" and "Peace Pin Boogie," while members of Hope Machine tackle "I Ain't Got No Home" and "I've Got to Know." Woody himself, with another of his running buddies, Cisco Houston, is heard on a 1940s recording of "New York Town." Fink's banjo-playing on various traditional tunes helps tie together the masterful sequencing of spoken stories and related songs.

That two men – Guthrie and Seeger – with a passion to carry on and expand music's potential for social change among the less fortunate, as well as for entertainment – should overlap, interact and inspire fellow and future musicians and listeners was a timely miracle. Listen to how it happened – and how it lives on – on this lively spoken and sung musical document.

track listing

disc 1: Pete Remembers Woody

1. Woody's Ghost - Part 1 – David Bernz
2. Pete Meets Woody (spoken word)
3. Are There Any Mountains Near Here? (spoken word)
4. Woody Writes "This Land is Your Land" (spoken word)
5. America Learns "This Land is Your Land" (spoken word)
6. My Big Education (spoken word)
7. 66 Highway Blues – Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie
8. How to Sing in Saloons (spoken word)
9. Riding the Freights (spoken word)
10. Rambling the Appalachians (spoken word)
11. Which Side Are You On – Work o' the Weavers
12. You'd Better Get Them Singing (spoken word)
13. Union Maid – The Vanaver Caravan
14. Songs Woody Liked (spoken word)
15. New York Town – Woody Guthrie and Cisco Houston
16. Reading and Writing (spoken word)
17. The Minstrel Song (spoken word)
18. On the Radio, Tom Mooney and Will Geer (spoken word)
19. Do Re Mi – The Vanaver Caravan
20. Woody Sez (spoken word)
21. Why Do You Stand There in the Rain? (spoken word)
22. The Flip-Flop (spoken word)
23. The Almanacs Go West (spoken word)
24. The Sinking of the Reuben James – The Almanac Singers
25. The Folk Process (spoken word)
26. Woody Trilogy (a. Hard Travelin' b. This Train, c. There's a Better World a-Coming) – Work o' the Weavers
27. Fighting Fascism Starts Right Here (spoken word)
28. If I Had a Hammer – Work o' the Weavers

disc 2: Pete Remembers Woody

1. Woody's Ghost, Part 2 – David Bernz
2. From WWII to The Weavers (spoken word)
3. Just Make it a General Song (spoken word)
4. So Long It's Been Good To Know Yuh! – Work o' the Weavers
5. The Last Time I Heard Woody Sing (spoken word)
6. Pastures of Plenty – Bill Vanaver/The Vanaver Caravan
7. The Freest Place on Earth (spoken word)
8. This Machine Kills Fascists (spoken word)
9. Little Arlo Writes Things Down (spoken word)
10. Woody in the Balcony (spoken word)
11. This Land Is Your Land – Work o' the Weavers
12. The Last Visit (spoken word)
13. My Peace – Work o' the Weavers
14. Woody Lives On (spoken word)
15. I Ain't Got No Home – Fred Gillen, Jr. and Steve Kirkman
16. Howdy Little Newlycome – Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer
17. Peace Pin Boogie – Amy Fradon and The Vanaver Caravan
18. Woody's "Rulin's" – David Bernz
19. I've Got to Know – Steve Kirkman
20. Woody's Ghost - Part 3 – David Bernz


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Subject: RE: Review: Pete Remembers Woody set
From: Charley Noble
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 07:09 PM

I'll probably buy this set.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Review: Pete Remembers Woody set
From: GUEST,mando-player-91
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 07:21 PM

My next Itunes purchase


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Subject: RE: The Atlantic Pans Pete and Woody
From: michaelr
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 07:56 PM

Shocking? I think not. There isn't anything particularly controversial about the observation that Woody was an agitator first, a musician second, is there?


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Subject: RE: The Atlantic Pans Pete and Woody
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 08:15 PM

Hmm. You beat me by an hour, LEJ -- I made the mistake of looking for prior posts by searching on the cd title. :-/ (I did run a filter check too, but apparently with the wrong parameters.)

Review: Pete Remembers Woody set

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Review: Pete Remembers Woody set
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 08:18 PM

an earlier (less wordy) thread that I missed in my search

and in my original post, I lost a word in editing -- I meant:

... maybe it's meant for the hard-core but relatively new folkie ...



~ B in T


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Subject: RE: The Atlantic Pans Pete and Woody
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 25 Sep 12 - 01:08 AM

Well, michael, I think Woody performed his songs with more conviction and more genuine unpretentious soul than 95% of the musicians I can name. True he had a message, but the way he put it across was pure art, in my opinion.


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Subject: RE: Review: Pete Remembers Woody-Atlantic pans them
From: Joe Offer
Date: 25 Sep 12 - 06:11 AM

I combined the two threads - hope that's OK with everybody.

I dunno. The album looks very interesting to me, but I won't be able to listen to it for a couple weeks. I ordered the new Pete Seeger-Lorre Wyatt album, but didn't get this one. I suppose the Pete-Woody album is one I'll listen to only once or twice, so I'm glad it's available on Spotify.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Review: Pete Remembers Woody-Atlantic pans them
From: Elmore
Date: 25 Sep 12 - 11:01 AM

Man, that was a rough, tough review. Still, I'd like to hear this for myself.


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Subject: RE: Review: Pete Remembers Woody-Atlantic pans them
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 25 Sep 12 - 11:57 AM

Thanks, Joe.

Spotify seems like a good option for this sort of thing.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Review: Pete Remembers Woody-Atlantic pans them
From: meself
Date: 25 Sep 12 - 12:15 PM

"a rough, tough review"

I'd call it a "self-indulgent, smarmy review".


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Subject: RE: Review: Pete Remembers Woody-Atlantic pans them
From: Elmore
Date: 25 Sep 12 - 01:41 PM

Agreed.


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Subject: RE: Review: Pete Remembers Woody-Atlantic pans them
From: Stewie
Date: 25 Sep 12 - 08:12 PM

I haven't listened to the CDs and, apart from Cathy Fink, I haven't heard, or even heard of, most of the performers so I cannot comment on the music. However, Berlatsky's general comments on Seeger, Guthrie and the pre-war American Left seem valid to me. The flip-flop by the Almanacs, and Guthrie in particular, from John Doe songs to jingoism was mind-boggling to say the least. According to Bess Lomax Hawes, much of the agiprop was down to Millard Lampbell who was 'a good sloganeer'. In any case, the impact upon the workers was limited. In Pete Seeger's own words:

I wouldn't say we [Almanacs] hit bottom with an icy thud. We were struggling, like always. We just didn't get any place, we hoped that we'd be singing for unions; instead, just a few left-wing unions would have us and masses of right-wing unions thought we were dirty communists and a whole batch of middle-of-the-road unions didn't know anything about us. And a whole lot of Social Democrat unions didn't like us either. So it wasn't we hit bottom. We never went up - we were still struggling at the bottom.

[Pete Seeger - quote at page 67 of 'Singing Out: An Oral History of America's Folk Revivals' by David King Dunaway & Molly Beer].

--Stewie


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Subject: RE: Review: Pete Remembers Woody-Atlantic pans them
From: Stringsinger
Date: 26 Sep 12 - 11:55 AM

Berlatsky's article is strictly a personal point of view which I find specious.
Who would say that the tunes for "Where Have All The Flowers Gone", "Turn Turn"
"If I Had A Hammer" and others were doggerel? Only someone with a tin ear for music.

As to Woody's musicianship, you'd have to define what is meant by that term? It wasn't very long ago the Louis Armstrong was considered unmusical by critics.

I can attest to Woody's musicianship, not flashy but to the point, and his songs will
prevail precisely because they are durable musically.

So much of music is a matter of opinion. Berlatsky offers little insight into his criticism of the music of the performers he discards, perhaps because he is not a musician, himself but a polemicist of sorts who in the realm of criticism is of the opinion that agitprop is selectively musical in his opinion. Black Sabbath? Give me a break!

Woody was every bit as good as Jimmy Rodgers or the Carter Family in his renditions,
simple, direct, and appropriate for this music style. His harmonica playing was superb unlike Dylan's.

Agitprop has been around a long time. As a matter of fact, we owe much to the early Left Wing movement for the interest in American folk music, today.

Here's what I think:
1. Pete Seeger wrote some of the prettiest tunes of any folkie I have ever heard.
2. Music is political. One person's didacticism is another's edification.
3. Woody's music is appropriate for the lyrics that he wrote.
4. Flip flopping is a political certainty. Note Romney and Obama, both flip floppers.
Think of Obama's campaign promises and drone strikes.
5. The Popular Front spawned many creative artists who some would find didactic.
6. Why do folk singers become lobotomized for good diction? That would be a form of communication, rather than the mumbled ramblings of neo-folkies trying to sound "authentic". The best tradition folk singers had good diction that was intelligible.

I would say that Berlatsky was a "mighty wind" in his review. He reflects the haughty
attitude given to many critics who turn out to be historically wrong.


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Subject: RE: Review: Pete Remembers Woody-Atlantic pans them
From: Stringsinger
Date: 26 Sep 12 - 12:07 PM

It is fashionable for certain folkie snobs to pan music from the Popular Front that have an agitprop tinge. Dylan's earlier work were agitprop such as Masters Of War and Blowing in the Wind. Also, The Times They Are A-Changin'.

All music is agitprop in that it reflects the social, political and or religious mind of the composer or performer. That includes Paul Robeson, The Dixie Chicks, Finian's Rainbow,
The Cradle Will Rock and other works that tell a social message. Picasso's Guernica was agitprop in its Anti-Franco message.

Berlatsky is not a valid commentator on folk music despite the rarified attitude of
Atlantic.


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Subject: RE: Review: Pete Remembers Woody-Atlantic pans them
From: GUEST,999
Date: 26 Sep 12 - 12:13 PM

Berlatsky reviews comic books fer krissake. His review of Seeger/Guthrie means little in the real world.


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Subject: RE: Review: Pete Remembers Woody-Atlantic pans them
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 26 Sep 12 - 10:26 PM

Or maybe iTunes rather than Spotify.

~ Becky in Long Beach


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