American Folk Anthology

American Folk Anthology

by Pete Seeger


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As of January 1, 2008, all recordings made in 1957 or earlier were in the public domain in Europe, where copyright on them extends only 50 years. Among the LPs newly available to any European company that wanted to reissue unlicensed, unauthorized versions of them were two similarly titled ones by Pete Seeger that had been released in 1957 by Folkways Records, American Ballads and American Favorite Ballads, Vol. 1. American Industrial Ballads, yet another Seeger album with a similar title, had fallen out of copyright in Europe a year earlier, having been released in 1956. The British Not Now Music label combines most of the contents of those three albums, throwing in half-a-dozen extra tracks for good measure (some of which actually feature the Almanac Singers, the Weavers, or the Song Swappers, not Seeger alone), on this three-CD set. The "American ballads" Seeger sang on the album of that name (Disc 1) were folk songs sung in the U.S., but often didn't originate there. Still, they were collected from rural American singers whose ancestors brought them across the Atlantic. And there were songs that clearly did originate, at least in terms of lyrical content, in the U.S. "Jesse James" recounts the murder of the famous American outlaw, and "The Titanic Disaster" looks back only to 1912. Whether or not there was a traceable historical person or event, however, the songs told stories of love, adventure, and criminality, siding with the poor and disadvantaged over the rich and privileged. The main characters of the songs often came to bad ends, but they remained folk heroes. American Favorite Ballads, Vol. 1 (Disc 2) contained Seeger's solo versions of a batch of popular folk songs, some of which he had sung previously with the Weavers. There was some conceptual overlap with the other discs, as "The Wreck of the Old 97," for instance, could have fit the themes of either American Industrial Ballads or American Ballads, and "Frankie and Johnny," a classic story song, would have been perfect for American Ballads. For the most part, however, this was a distinct collection containing much-loved folk songs. Sometimes, the lyrics seemed interchangeable from one song to another, and, in fact, that old warning about a false-hearted lover being worse than a thief turned up in both "The Wagoner's Lad" and "On Top of Old Smoky." Seeger as usual presented the songs in his vibrant, clear-voiced manner, as if trying to preserve them as much as perform them. On American Industrial Ballads (Disc 3), he sang a history of the Industrial Revolution and its impact on working people. As this album went on, the workers' complaints about ill treatment and low pay became more extreme, and eventually, the need for unions to represent them seemed overwhelming. Taken together, the songs chronicle a century-and-a-half of the efforts of farmers, textile workers, and miners, primarily, to get what they deserved from increasingly rich and powerful captains of industry. Typical of the slipshod manner of unlicensed reissues, this one inexplicably deletes tracks ("Jay Gould's Daughter" is missing from American Ballads, as is "Buffalo Gals" from American Favorite Ballads); the song titles have typos in them; and the brief liner notes are littered with factual errors.

Product Details

Release Date: 03/23/2009
Label: Not Now Uk
UPC: 5060143490200
catalogNumber: 4349020
Rank: 45191


Disc 1

  1. Pretty Polly
  2. The Three Butchers
  3. John Henry
  4. The Titanic Disaster
  5. Fair Margaret and Sweet William
  6. John Hardy
  7. The Golden Vanity
  8. Gypsy Davy
  9. The Farmer's Curst Wife
  10. Down in Carlisle
  11. St. James Hospital
  12. Jesse James
  13. Barbara Allen
  14. Sioux Indians
  15. Texian Boys
  16. Hold the Fort
  17. Ground Hog
  18. The Derby Ram

Disc 2

  1. Down in the Valley
  2. Oh Mary, Don't You Weep
  3. The Blue Tail Fly
  4. Yankee Doodle
  5. Cielito Lindo
  6. Wabash Cannonball
  7. So Long, It's Been Good to Know You
  8. Skip to My Lou
  9. The Wagoner's Lad
  10. The Wreck of the Old '97
  11. Old Dan Tucker
  12. I Ride an Old Paint
  13. Frankie and Johnnie
  14. On Top of Old Smokey
  15. The Big Rock Candy Mountain
  16. Home on the Range
  17. Kisses Sweeter Than Wine
  18. She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain

Disc 3

  1. Peg and Awl
  2. The Blind Fiddler
  3. Buffalo Skinners
  4. Eight Hour Day
  5. Hard Times in the Mill
  6. Roll Down the Line
  7. Hayseed Like Mine
  8. The Farmer Is the Man
  9. Come All You Hardy Miners
  10. Hi Lies in the American Land
  11. Casey Jones
  12. Let Them Wear Their Watches Fine
  13. Cotton Mill Colic
  14. Seven Cent Cotton & Forty Cent Meat
  15. Mill Mother's Lament
  16. Fare Ye Well Old Ely Branch
  17. Beans, Bacon and Gravy
  18. The Death of Harry Simms
  19. Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues
  20. Ballad of Barney Graham
  21. My Children Are Seven in Number
  22. Raggedy
  23. Pittsburgh Town
  24. Sixty Per Cent

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