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Peggy Seeger: She must be one of the most complete artists around today. Peggy Seeger's tongue-in-cheek look at life comes accompanied by music from all sorts of sources. Alongside the piano, the guitar, the Appalachian dulcimer, the concertina and the banjo, she set the lot aside for a moment or two last night and just simply created rhythm and music by taping the side of her guitar. For her it spelt out a sort of rhythm of life. - Neil Johnston, Belfast Telegraph

Peggy Quotes 2

I came away from the auditorium holding back tears from the emotional impact of Peggy’s performance, and with a comforting, warm glow inside, a feeling of serious privilege at being in her company once again. I treasure every moment. Love will linger on…
-David Kidman

 

Fly Down Little Bird

From Blitz MAGAZINE, June 2011

Fly Down Little Bird


Country, blues and folk music protagonists have long recognized the effectiveness of conveying their mission statements via such seemingly unlikely means. In each case, it has proven to be a win-win situation, in that the message is delivered without compromise and a great deal of worthwhile music is created in the process.

Siblings Mike Seeger and Margaret “Peggy” Seeger have long recognized the merits of such musical endeavors. As Peggy Seeger recalled in this project’s sleeve notes, their upbringing in Silver Springs, Maryland in the late 1930s as the children of Julliard music professor Charles Louis Seeger and composer/pianist Ruth Crawford Seeger (who was commissioned by renowned musicologists John and Alan Lomax to transcribe folk recordings for the seminal Our Singing Country anthology) instilled in them an unwavering passion for musical commentary. Thankfully, they have collected fourteen such sublime examples in Fly Down Little Bird.

On the surface, each piece may seem to resonate with the boundless optimism of a campfire sing along, which in and of itself is often a shortsighted perspective. However, a closer investigation makes it abundantly clear that herein is a collection of material that more than does the allegorical concept justice. Witness, for example the political intrigue under the guise of matrimony and carnivorous mammals found in Old Bangum,  the innate desire for self-preservation exemplified in The Dodger Song or the familiar tale of marital infidelity and its often inevitable interaction with the American penal system in Little Willie's My Darlin'..

Some of the material included here (much of was culled by the Seegers from field recordings from the late 1920s through the mid 1940s) had previously found its way into the hands of sympathetic interpreters, with tremendous aesthetic success. Most notably, the rollicking Cindy was recorded by folk music front runners the Kingston Trio and rock and roll visionary/country rock pioneer Rick Nelson. Likewise, the Biblical overtones of Blood-Stained Banders resonated with Jefferson Airplane, who presented a variation of the piece as Good Shepherd on theirVolunteers album (RCA Victor LSP-4238) in 1969.

For their part, Mike Seeger and Peggy Seeger drew not only from their impeccable musical heritage, but from their own formidable capabilities as composers and multi-instrumentalists. Mike Seeger enjoyed a long and prolific career as a champion of the rich musical legacy of southern America. In turn, Peggy Seeger has long excelled as a composer and solo artist in her own right, with numerous solo recordings and collaborations with her late husband, Ewan McColl to her credit.

Musically, Fly Down Little Bird celebrates the best that the genre has to offer. The apparent technical inspiration of such instrumental virtuosos as Riley Puckett and Gid Tanner (evidenced in abundance in the closing instrumental, Red River Jig), as well as the beloved bluegrass master, David “Stringbean” Akeman set a solid template for the project in terms of arrangement and execution.

Concurrently, the dual role of statesman and preservationist underscored the work of such giants of the idiom as Charly Patton, Huddie William “Leadbelly” Ledbetter, the Kingston Trio and the Seegers’ elder brother, Pete Seeger (both as a solo artist and as the guiding light behind the Almanac Singers and the Weavers). Their inspiration serves here as a poignant reminder that both medium and message remain indispensable.

Tragically, Fly Down Little Bird proved to be the swan song for Mike Seeger, who succumbed to cancer in his Lexington, Virginia home on 07 August 2009, eight days before his seventy-sixth birthday. Nonetheless, he and Peggy Seeger have made tremendous strides in, not necessarily preservation, but perpetuation of an essential and highly impacting musical genre. In the words of two of Peggy Seeger’s earlier triumphs, Fly Down Little Bird is proof that to Sing About These Hard Times is a perfect way to grow and nurture a musical Garden Of Flowers.



David Kidman May 2011 on Netrythems.com

Mike Seeger & Peggy Seeger - Fly Down Little Bird (Appleseed)

This is a warm-hearted little gem. It's a rare recorded collaboration between these famous siblings, both of whom have played (and it's an understatement to say this) a seminal part in the folk revival over the past 50+ years. Peggy, still going strong and recently relocated back here in the UK, is known not just for her singing and multi-instrumental skills but also for her songwriting, her eminently persuasive and right-on activism, and of course her long-term musical and personal partnership with Ewan MacColl. Her brother Mike, who sadly died of cancer in 2009, was a brilliant singer and multi-instrumentalist, who devoted his own career to performing the rural "old-timey" music of the American south, co-founding the ultra-influential combo The New Lost City Ramblers. 


Fly Down Little Bird presents a set of recordings made by Peggy and Mike in (mostly) late 2008, shortly before Mike's death; for these recordings they'd decided to lay down for posterity some of the "old songs" as closely as possible to the way in which they had originally heard them (singing along to ancient field recordings that were playing as a soundtrack to their childhood while their mother Ruth laboriously transcribed them). To achieve this, Mike and Peggy took time out to just sit back and sing (with no overdubbing, and little or no cutting between takes) fourteen of these old familiar songs. 


There's a lovely intimacy about these recordings, a genuine feeling of being totally at-one with these songs that have naturally become a part of the singers' psyches. To the manner born, indeed, and you won't ever hear the songs done better or more authentically. A small number of the songs (eg Cindy, The Farmer Is The Man, Little Birdie) have become staples of the old-time revivalists' repertoires, but a significant proportion of the remainder are definitely more obscure and well worth exhuming once again, especially in such authoritative and genially committed performances as they receive here, performances which in spirit cannot help but transport us back to the original Lomax field recordings. 


The Dodger Song, Blood-Stained Banders and My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains were among those completely new to me, while several of the other selections couldn't be counted at all familiar. There's earthy ballads like Old Bangum, balanced by a pair of fun duets (Jennie Jenkins and Where Have You Been My Good Old Man?) and the curious Fod!, on all of which Mike and Peggy are clearly having the time of their lives affectionately reliving and recreating those old memories; while especially enjoyable are those characteristic soundings-together, those gloriously natural sibling harmonies (as on Poor Little Turtle Dove and Little Willie's My Darlin'). Accompaniments are varied too, with superbly skilled use of banjos, guitars, lap dulcimer and harmonica; while the closing item, Red River Jig (which actually sounds more like a reel), is sparkily rendered as a fiddle-and-piano duet. Hey now, don't you miss out on this treasurable disc.


Mike Seeger and Peggy Seeger

Fly Down Little Bird

Appleseed Recordings

Out this week, Fly Down Little Bird is a fun collection of tunes the Seeger siblings grew up on. They were one hell of a musical family. Daddy Charles Seeger was a New Deal folklorist and musicologist. Their mom, Ruth Crawford Seeger (Charlie's second wife), was a composer and pianist who served as transcriber of John and Alan Lomax's field recordings of old-time American music—which meant that these kids had unbelievable firsthand exposure to their nation's cultural currency. Both started playing young and mastered many an instrument. They lived in suburban Maryland, where the likes of Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie might drop in for a visit from time to time. Not to mention their older half-brother, the one and only Pete Seeger, still kicking at 91. Okay, yeah, I'm jealous.

Peggy, a veteran folkie with a voice like honey slightly crystallized, is now 75. Mike, who passed on in 2009, was a multiple-grammy-winning player of the banjo—and, well, you name it—who was best known for the influential New Lost City Ramblers, a band he cofounded in the 1950s. Lucky thing that he and Peggy had already recorded these songs as part of an on-and-off lifetime collaboration starting when the young pair teamed up to play local square dances. (Check out "Red River Jig" for a taste.)

Lovers of old-time music will totally enjoy these songs. You might even recognize a few from your kids' CDs, although they weren't written for children. A lot of popular music from early in the last century bore an earnestness or an implicit corniness that draws kids like moths to a flame. "The Dodger Song," a ditty about deceitful politicians, lawyers, doctors, and just about everybody else, is delivered in a lighthearted kid-friendly way. "Fod!" is chock full of goofy nonsense (fod?) that would crack up any six-year-old—and made me laugh, too. And I've personally entertained preschoolers with the silly "Janie Jenkins."

There's also some period stuff here you'll may need to explain to the children, like "Big Bee Suck the Pumpkin Stem," where Mike Seeger sings: Big bee suck the pumpkin stem, little bee make the honey / Black man hoe the cotton patch and the white man tote the money. And on "Where Have You Been, My Good Old Man," a wife's upbeat interrogation of her hubby, Mike Seeger plays the geezer with a voice so gruff that you feel a little sorry for his wife.

"Old Bangum" would be familiar to any kid raised on Dan Zanes, or for that matter Pete Seeger or Doc Watson. It's the darker, grittier precursor to "Froggy Went A' Courting"—Old Bangum dead went out and ride, sword and pistol by his side—and it's pleasantly weird, at that. In this version, the fair maid refuses Old Bangum's marriage proposal until he goes off and slays a bone-grinding, blood-sucking bear in yonder woods.

All told, these 14 songs will bring listeners back to what some folks like to think of as simpler (read: better) times. But for the most part, that's just another fairy tale. Probably best to skip the nostalgia and enjoy the music.

Michael Mechanic
Mother Jones blog
Mon Mar. 21, 2011 4:00 AM PDT

 

Mike and Peggy Seeger's New CD - Fly Down Little Bird


It is hard to imagine any two children growing up in America being more thoroughly exposed to traditional American music than Mike and Peggy Seeger. Their parents, Charles and Ruth Crawford Seeger, were deeply involved in folk music and worked closely with John and Alan Lomax, beginning in the 1930’s, to help transcribe and publish the folk songs that were being collected around the time of the Great Depression.

Mike Seeger devoted his life to discovering, preserving, promoting, playing, and singing old time country music. He eventually settled in rural Rockbridge Country, Virginia - near Lexington, with a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains across the valley to the east. As a young woman, Pegger Seeger moved to England and has spent most of her life there involved in politics, songwriting, making music, and raising a family.

In 2008 Mike and Peggy got together for a project to record some of their favorite childhood songs, arranging and recording them in a style similar to the way they learned to sing them at home with their parents. Most of the recording was done in Mike’s home, a setting that allowed them to capture the simple beauty of their voices and acoustic instruments. Mike passed away in August 2009 but Peggy and Alexia Smith, Mike’s widow, completed the project and have produced a wonderful album of traditional songs entitled Fly Down Little Bird.

These are the last recordings that Mike made and he and Peggy have left us with a rare memento of Mike’s life and devotion to traditional music. Almost every type of folk song imaginable is represented on Fly Down Little Bird: songs of love, jealousy, broken hearts, political and social injustice, memories of home, dreams of heaven - and one lively fiddle tune.

The fourteen tracks on Fly Down Little Bird include some familiar songs such as "Cindy", "The Farmer is the Man", "Jennie Jenkins", "My Home's Across the Blue Ridge Mountains", and "Little Birdie” - all beautifully sung as you would expect from siblings who first sang the songs together as young children some seventy years ago.

Other songs are less familiar and are truly a pleasure to discover. Two of my new favorites are "Blood Stained Banders" and "Big Bee Suck the Pumpkin Stem". I was surprised to learn, after a little on-line research, that "Blood Stained Banders" is an early Nineteenth Century spiritual. Ruth Crawford Seeger transcribed the song for American Folk Songs for Christmas as “Don’t You Hear the Lambs A-Crying”. It has been recorded by a number of artists under a variety of titles, including “Good Shepherd” on the Jefferson Airplane’s 1969 album Volunteers.

"Big Bee Suck the Pumpkin Stem" is an interesting title that initially called to mind Mike's way of joking about risque songs with a "triple entendre", as opposed to the more common “double entendre”. However a review of the lyrics reveals that “Big Bee” really is a song of social injustice, “Black man hoed the cotton patch and the white man took the money.” Mike’s fiddling and Peggy’s playing on a nylon strung banjo represents one of the great sounds of American traditional music.

Those inclined to research the original sources of these lesser known songs will be pleased to know that that the liner notes provide original sources for all but the most well known songs, and complete lyrics are available at Peggy's website. According to the liner notes, the original source for “Big Bee Suck the Pumpkin Stem” is Francis Harper’s recording of Jack Mizell in 1944 in the Okefenokee Swamp region of Georgia. For anyone interested in hearing the source recording, Harper’s original field recording is located in the Library of Congress, along with a number of other recordings he made of Mizell and other singers and musicians in the Okefenokee Swamp region.

The combination of Mike and Peggy singing together is especially pleasing throughout the CD, with Peggy's voice adding a sparkle to Mike's more deeply textured singing. The first track, “Old Bangum”, is strong evidence for a belief in the magic of sibling vocal harmonies. “Jennie Jenkins”, a favorite play-party song, is even more special with the combination of Mike and Peggy’s voices, as is “Little Birdie”, which Mike recorded solo on Southern Banjo Sounds.
Fans of Seeger family music will not be surprised at the variety of instruments on this recording. Mike and Peggy play banjo, guitar, piano, fiddle, mandolin, lap dulcimer, harmonica, and Leo Lorenzoni adds string bass to another play-party song, “Fod!”. Peggy’s piano accompaniment, something not frequently heard on modern recordings of traditional music, provides excellent rhythmic support to several of the songs and to the lone instrumental fiddle tune, “Red River Jig”.

Fly Down Little Bird will be released on March 22, 2011, on Appleseed Recordings. I highly recommend that you go right out and get this CD, put on the headphones, and sit down with liner notes in hand to enjoy a special treat.

Tim McElhannon
Posted onMarch 20, 2011 at 1:14pm
View Tim McElhannon's blog

 


Music Review: Mike Seeger and Peggy Seeger - Fly Down Little Bird

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Last updated 1:20 a.m. PT
By DAVID BOWLING
BLOGCRITICS.ORG

 

If your last name is Seeger, the chances are you have a connection to folk music, and such is the case with Mike and Peggy.

Siblings Mike and Peggy Seeger are the half brother and sister of folk legend Pete Seeger. While they may not have had the commercial success of Pete, they remained just as committed and passionate to the presentation and preservation of folk music as their brother. They have traveled different life journeys, yet every once in awhile, they came together to explore their love of traditional folk music.

Mike passed away during 2007. He was content to live in the southern United States. He was a multi-instrumentalist who maintained a lifelong affinity for folk songs. He was a collector who archived hundreds and probably thousands of songs during his lifetime. He released dozens of albums, both as a solo artist, and with his New Lost City Ramblers. Every so often, he and his sister would record together.

Peggy's life took a different path. She relocated to England for decades as a result of her 30-year marriage to Ewan McColl. While he was a songwriter, performer, poet, and playwright, it was as an activist that he made his mark. Peggy Seeger was his soul mate, as leftist politics and activism were an important part of her life. Since his death, she has entered into a new relationship, taught at Northeastern University, and lived in England to be near her children.

The music contained here are the songs of their youth, from the late 1920s to the mid-1940s, and whose roots probably go back long before that. The instrumental backing is sparse but true to the folk tradition. Banjo, guitar, piano, fiddle, harmonica, and dobro all help to present the music as authentically as possible.

The Seegers make no apology for their music. There are stories of love, travel, and people from a bygone time. While the production is crisp, the music reflects the era it represents. Songs such as "Where Have You Been My Good Old Man," "My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains," "Jennie Jenkins," "Red River Jig," and 10 more are all nice introductions to an underappreciated music form.

My favorite track was "The Dodger Song," which has some biting and sarcastic commentary about farmers, lawyers, doctors, and merchants, among others.

Fly Down Little Bird is a final gift from the duo of Mike and Peggy Seeger. Peggy Seeger writes in the liner notes: "So here are 14 of our old familiar songs, easy to sing along with, fresh from 70-odd years of our knowledge of them. Carry them along-they are life companions."

View the original article on blogcritics.org
© 1998-2011 Seattle Post-Intelligencer



Chris Spector - Midwest Record 

 
APPLESEED
MIKE SEEGER & PEGGY SEEGER/Fly down Little Bird 

If you never enjoyed songs l like "There's a Hole in the Bucket, Dear Liza", never went to a hootenanny at the Circle M ranch or don't know who Norm Peligrinni or Ray Nordstrand are, you might not get why this is such a lovely album and why Jim Musselman deserves a round of applause for making and acquiring albums that need to be made---but that's your loss.  A year before being taken by fast acting cancer, these two Seeger sibs got together, rolled tape and traipsed through songs of their youth they enjoyed then and enjoy now.  A purely heartfelt traditional folk record that over rides all the clichés and delivers the goods, this should be a sure category Grammy winner if Pete doesn't bring out anything this year.  It doesn't get any more honest and down homey than this and it's a lovely look at a lost art.  Check it out for a wonderful journey through the south and the mountains.  A winner all the way.

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