Pete Seeger American Favourite Ballads Vol. 4

Thanks in particular to Bruce Springsteen’s recent efforts, the great Pete Seeger is enjoying a renaissance in popular culture and rightly so. As much as he is the best singer of traditional songs, Seeger has always been a teacher and a populist with a fervent belief in the power of music. Between 1957 and 1962, Folkways released the five-record set American Favourite Ballads — a collection of popular songs from the mid-to-late-19th century, as interpreted by Seeger. Ostensibly sing-alongs for campfires and children, Seeger sought to highlight the historical significance of these songs. Vol. 4 is such a collection, mixing up dark, hard songs with jaunty lullabies. Murder ballads such as "Banks of the Ohio” rest well with the mournful (and timely) war-time lament "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier.” These are tempered by the sardonic "Hallelujah, I’m a Bum” and the sentimental "You Are My Sunshine” and even "What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor.” Bravo to Smithsonian for their archival acumen and their efforts to bring American songs and Pete Seeger to younger generations. (Smithsonian Folkways)