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PEGGY SEEGER "Period Piece" Rykodisc USA TCD0178

This retrospective collection of tracks recorded by one of the icons of the Folk Revival and her family, including the mighty Ewan, might have put me off a few years ago by its blatant feminist and political agenda, because I used to think that was not what folksong was about. But it comes as a real shaft of sunlight amid the Celtic miasma, in which the folk scene is blundering about at the moment. Peggy sings with passion and commitment about her own life and experience, the things she feels strongly about and has fought for over many years. Whether or not you share her views is immaterial: she writes good songs that hit below the belt, and she sings them with consummate artistry. She and Ewan were leaders, not followers who jumped on band wagons and it shows on this CD: neither of them ever cared whether they were popular, as long as people thought about the issues they raised and reacted to them.

The subject matter of the songs reflects the period in which they were written and falls into two categories: personal and political, though often the two overlap. Her lyrical yet down to earth "Lullaby for a Very New Baby", written for her daughter Kitty, who sings on one of the other tracks, is a masterpiece. Also very moving is the song with Ewan on the last track, "Darling Annie", about a life-long partnership of two strong characters. There are also songs dealing with apartheid, anti-nuclear protest, boycotts and strikes, disability, women's rights, political dissent, war and violence. These have all touched our lives in the past half century, so there should be songs about them. What distinguishes Peggy's songs is her ability to write them from the inside, not as a spectator.

Sheila Douglas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 31 of The Living Tradition magazine.