Pete Seeger

Pete-Pak

by Jonathan Frahm

21 June 2016

 
cover art

Pete Seeger

Pete-Pak

(Living Music)
US: 17 Jun 2016
UK: 17 Jun 2016

When Pete Seeger passed away in 2014 at 94, he left behind one of American folk music’s most influential, dense, and penultimate catalogs. Spanning a career consisting of well near 70 years’ worth of music as a whole, Seeger had delivered any number of hit songs, among them the ringing proclamation against war, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”, which still bears an unfortunate truth in its lyricism today. Perhaps the last album of particular note for a general listening audience was 1996’s titular Pete, which initially came about as a bit of surprise to fans after Seeger had initially disavowed any further work in the studio after that time. Well, as the story goes, pal Paul Winter managed to convince Seeger to craft a studio cut one last time, and, ultimately, their end product became the Grammy Award-winner for Best Traditional Folk Album.

There was a grandiose quality to the record, mostly supported by the various choirs which Winter had paired Seeger up with, that had gone unprecedented in Pete’s aforementioned catalog up until this point. Having a particularly rich girth to the album gave it a harmonious—nearly righteous—backbone to support the songs with as Seeger lead the choirs in song with his familiar, folksy vocals and masterclass banjo picking. Remastered for modern listening devices, the harmony in Pete’s dichotomy comes across in that much more of a crystalline fashion. Though the 18-track piece itself doesn’t add anything new to this Pete-Pak, it offers up the album as one of Seeger’s final cases of prime listening so as to grace the ears of his audience once more before diving into a newly-pressed companion DVD.

The video accompaniment in this release is captured from a time where Seeger was in his prime in June 1982 during northwest Connecticut’s Living Music Festival. Pairing himself up alongside longtime partner Paul Winter and his Consort, while also pairing up with Susan Osborn and even marrying his music with the Brazilian samba influence of Pe de Boi, Seeger represents each side of himself in a nature that comes across as varied and incredibly musically apt, but with a calmness and a sincerity that had long since before then become his trademark delivery both on and off of the stage.

Watching these performances intently, one can find a value in not only Seeger’s work, but the way he came across as a person while singing and playing his songs. In doing so, it isn’t hard to see just way the man is regarded, even still, as one of folk’s greatest national treasures. More-so, this value is driven further by the DVD’s bonus features, capturing two separate additional performances of Seeger’s at later times in his life. As his vocals degraded over the passing of time as Seeger ceded further into his golden years, it was his vibrant spirit that kept him a significant artist to remember even then as he delivered performances at the “Pete-nic” in 1997 and at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Society in 2005.

The pack is, even still, given one extra set of features in particular in the form of Pete’s own words, perhaps among the dearest of the new inclusions on the Pete-pak. Featured in newfound liner notes on the Pete LP, Seeger sits down and describes, beside handwritten prints of his lyrics, his own meaning to several of the songs that are featured on the record. Whether he is detailing a chance happening in Japan leading to the development of “Rainbow Race”, or just what Huddie Ledbetter meant to him beside “Huddie Ledbetter was a Hell of a Man”, it is a compelling personal touch added to the proceedings which will really drive the purchase home for fans of the man, as well as those who are finally keen on checking in on the music of folk’s finest.

Pete-Pak

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