Peggy Seeger,
Heading for Home
(Appleseed, 2003)

Sit down in your favorite listening spot, get really comfy and have a listen to Peggy Seeger, the singing storyteller. Her songs sound like Appalachian folk music from long ago and a bit like Celtic-influenced bluegrass. This makes sense to me as Seeger grew up singing songs from the southern United States passed on through the generations, later moving to the United Kingdom when she was 20. There she met and married singer-songwriter Ewan MacColl. She lived in the U.K.and was very involved with the British folk scene until 1994 when she came back to the states and settled in North Carolina. Her music now combines elements of both traditional folk and bluegrass music -- I call it folkgrass.

Seeger sings, plucks a fine five-string banjo and plays guitar and an Appalachian dulcimer. Family and friends support her on vocals and various instruments including a harmonium, guitar, mandola and harmonica. Singing lead on "Fatal Flower Garden" is Irish traditional singer Irene Pyper-Scott, who Seeger met and became friends with while living overseas.

All of the songs are traditional except for the title song, penned by Seeger. I thought for sure "Generous Lover" was an Irish lament when I first heard it. I was only partially correct -- the music and words were from Ireland and the United States. It was recorded in a church where the open and empty sound combined with her lovely voice and sense of timing captured the melancholy feel of the song. With the exception of one other track, the rest of the album was recorded in an 18th century-cottage in Norfolk, England.

To fully appreciate Seeger's art you must listen closely, otherwise much will be missed as each song is a story filled with interesting characters and plot twists. "Oma Wise" is a fast-paced but dark song about a woman drowned by her lover and what happened to her killer. "John Riley" is about a man who left home and the woman who had to stay behind. (Be sure listen to the end of the song for one of those plot twists!) Part of me wishes the lyrics were provided, but I actually found my first listen without them quite enjoyable. It was like hearing a story for the first time, anticipating and wanting to know what was going to happen next. Now I find myself frequently going back to listen to these songs again and again like a favorite bedtime tale from my childhood.

Seeger has been singing these songs since she was a child and continues to sing them wherever she goes. When asked what her favorite song is she always says "the one I'm singing at the moment." She says the same about her home -- it's "wherever I am right now." Put this CD in and start heading for home with Peggy Seeger. You'll be sure to enjoy the ride.

- Rambles
written by Erika S. Rabideau
published 7 February 2004

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