After a half century as a musician and approaching her 70th birthday, Peggy Seeger understands that a good song of any era will survive as long as long there's someone with the knowledge and understanding to sing it. On "Love Call Me Home," Peggy's 21st solo album and the second volume in her "Home Trilogy," she presents ten traditional North American songs and two new songs of her own composition. Volume 1, "Heading for Home" (Appleseed, 2003), had the same mix of old and new songs, and Volume 3, provisionally entitled She's Coming Home, is already in the pipeline.
"I love new songs, yet I still find myself returning to the old ones," Peggy explains in the CD's liner notes. "Songs handed down to us by singers who loved and tended to them, as I love and tend to them for those who come after me. Songs that command my attention, not only when I sing them but during that coda of silence that always follows . . ." It is these songs that shape Peggy's "Home Trilogy" of traditional songs, almost all of which she has never recorded.
It is not an idyllic world that Peggy puts before us. There are murder ballads ("Poor Ellen Smith"); stories of fidelity beyond the call of duty ("Hangman"); journeys into the supernatural ("Rynerdine"); tales of romantic betrayal ("Careless Love," "Loving Hannah," "Love is Teasing"); laments of the incarcerated ("Bad, Bad Girl," "Logan County Jail"); and historical mysteries ("London Bridge," "Who Killed Cock Robin?"). The two originals that bookend the CD are as topical but traditional-sounding as any she has written in her prolific career. The first track, "Sing About the Hard Times," could be a 19th Century lament in which "Life gets harder every year / Those with the least have the most to fear" before referencing jobs outsourced to Mexico while workers get drawn into an unpopular war. The title song closes the album - written for Peggy's friend Christine Lassiter, who died of cancer, it is a tender and philosophical glimpse of a life winding down and then out.
Peggy's clear, ageless vocals and crystalline performances on banjo, dulcimer, autoharp, guitar and piano are enhanced by the participation of her two sons by her late husband, England's revered songwriter and activist Ewan MacColl. Calum and Neill MacColl, are not only co-producing the "Home Trilogy" but they also act as directors, chorus members and instrumentalists; daughter Kitty MacColl joins in on backing vocals and is co-designer of the CD's booklet). Four friends from Peggy's hometown of Asheville, North Carolina, join in with strings and voices on the opening track.
Peggy's definition of "home" is broad enough to encompass her American birthplace; England, where she lived more than half her life and raised her family; club and concert stages around the world; her own physical body; and the traditional and topical music that has shaped her life and career. This is, indeed, an album that will call you home.
About PEGGY SEEGER
There have been many multi-generational "folk families" of American musicians and songwriters, from little-known rural clans sharing their traditional songs in unrecorded privacy to the legendary Carter Family, Woody Guthrie and his descendants, and, of course, the Seegers. Not only has Peggy extended her family's musical legacy through her own accomplishments but she has created an international tributary through her marriage to the late British singer, songwriter, activist and actor Ewan MacColl and the children they parented, two of whom are professional musicians.
Peggy Seeger's mother, composer/pianist Ruth Crawford Seeger, was the first woman to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship Award for Music; her father, Charles Louis Seeger, was a pioneer in ethnomusicology. Half-brother Pete is an international icon for his musical and political activism for more than half a century, and her older brother Mike ("the best all-around instrumentalist of the three of us," according to Peggy) was a longtime member of the "old-timey" New Lost City Ramblers and continues his work in recording and archiving that music.
Brought up in an environment where "home was music," Peggy absorbed classical music from her parents' piano playing and traditional folk music from the recordings and visits of Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, and song collectors John and Alan Lomax, among others. She learned to play the banjo and guitar alongside Mike and participated in the family singalongs. By the time she was 11, Peggy had learned to transcribe music, and later majored in music at Radcliffe College in Massachusetts, where she began her professional career.
In 1954, Folkways Records issued Peggy's first recordings, the 10-inch "Songs of Courting and Complaint." In 1955, 20-year-old Peggy performed her way across Europe, Russia and China before arriving in England where, "at the age of nearly 21, on March 25, 1956, at 10:30 in the morning, I entered a basement room in Chelsea, London, and sealed my fate. Ewan MacColl was sitting on the other side of the room. Twenty years my senior, he was a singer and songwriter par excellence. . . . We were together 24 hours a day for three decades, two people rolled compatibly into one." MacColl immortalized that first meeting in his song "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," a #1 US chart single for Roberta Flack in 1972.
After becoming a British subject in 1959 and settling in London, Peggy moved, with Ewan, to the forefront of the British folk revival, singing and lecturing about the place of the folk song in modern life, emphasizing the connections between traditional song forms and political activism. The highlight of their collaboration ("other than our children") was the development, with BBC producer Charles Parker, of the innovative Radio Ballad form, a mosaic of spoken vocals, sound effects and newly written folk songs. These Ballads have been reissued as an 8-CD set by the UK's Topic Records. For seven years, Seeger and MacColl ran the controversial London Critics Group and produced a yearly political theatrical presentation, "The Festival of Fools." The duo also operated and regularly performed at one of England's best known folk venues, The Singers Club, and formed their own record label, Blackthorne Records. Somehow, Peggy found time to have three children, write music for and perform in films, television programs and radio plays, as well as establishing and editing a magazine of contemporary songs, "The New City Songwriter," throughout its existence (1965-85), and helped assemble books of folk songs with Ewan MacColl, Alan Lomax and Edith Fowke. In 1971, she was the subject of a Granada Television documentary in their series, "The Exiles." In 1995, BBC Radio 2 broadcast an award-winning five-part series about Peggy's life, with two subsequent episodes broadcast in 1996 and 1997.
In 1983, Peggy began to sing occasionally with Irish traditional singer Irene Pyper-Scott, with whom, after MacColl's death in 1989, she formed a performing and recording duo, No Spring Chickens. Peggy moved back to the States in 1994 and has re-established her solo career as singer, recording artist and lecturer, using Asheville, North Carolina, as her home base.
On May 29, 2005, Peggy's 70th birthday will be celebrated a few weeks prematurely with a very special concert at the Queen Elisabeth Hall in London. Entitled "In Her 70th Year," the event will include performances by Peggy, her children, her partner Irene Pyper-Scott, and numerous very special guests yet to be announced.
Considered one of the finest singers of Anglo-American folk songs, Peggy has written many songs of her own, chiefly dealing with political, feminist, and ecological subjects. The 150 best of her pre-1998 compositions are published in her "Peggy Seeger Songbook" (Oak Publications). Among her most famous songs are "Gonna Be an Engineer," which was subsequently adopted as a feminist anthem, and "The Ballad of Springhill," dealing with a Canadian mining disaster in 1958. To date, Peggy has recorded 21 solo albums(including "Love Call Me Home") and has contributed to more than 100 other recordings, including brother Pete's 2003 Grammy-finalist "Seeds: The Songs of Pete Seeger Vol. 3" (Appleseed) and Rosalie Sorrels' "My Last Go Round," a 2004 Grammy finalist. Peggy's first Appleseed CD, "Love Will Linger On," a garland of romantic love songs, was released in 2000, and we eagerly await honor of issuing the third volume of her "Home Trilogy," "She's Coming Home."