Mike Seeger (1933-2009) was a wonderful exponent of old timey traditional music, and as years rolled by lived and breathed the values of the historic Appalachians (that run through Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky and up as far as Maryland and Washington DC) and the source of the tradition. England, Ireland and Scotland. Like Alan Lomax the New York born and Maryland, Washington DC raised musician was a great historian who did much not only to keep traditional music alive but also, resurrect songs that had all but become lost.
A member of the New Lost City Ramblers (w/ John Cohen, Tom Paley who was replaced at the time, 1964 of this Seeger’s second solo album by Tracy Schwarz) Mike performs with a freedom rarely matched in his latter-day work. His love of banjo, fiddle, dulcimer and auto harp that he plays plus, guitar and French harp see 15 ballads performed with upmost ease.
Aided by Marge Seeger on occasions Seeger includes an a cappella version of ‘Young McAfee On The Gallows’, talking blues ‘Old Rachel’ (a humorous affair) to go with wondrous versions of A P Carter’s ‘Hello Stranger’ and ‘I’ll Aggravate Your Soul’ and with him supporting himself on auto harp the Mother Maybelle Carter inspired ‘Fair And Tender Ladies’. While his banjo work on ‘Wild Bill Jones’ is at minimum commendable.
Others of note include the melodic ‘I’ve Been All Around This World’ (Grandpa Jones) that features harp and guitar. Plus you also have the rousing ‘Oh Molly Dear’, a scratchy old-timey fiddle aided ‘Bachelor’s Hall’ and an uplifting take of ‘Fishing Blues’. As underlined in John Crosby’s splendid liner notes Seeger’s jaunty version is most likely to have been the source for Taj Mahal’s version, and it doesn’t stop there for the auto harp aided ‘Two Soldiers’ and dulcimer warmed ‘Waterbound’ are also top class!
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