Saturday, January 12, 2019

John McCutcheon – To Everyone in all the World: A Celebration of Pete Seeger

To Everyone in all the World: A Celebration of Pete Seeger
Appalseed Productions

This coming May 3 will mark the centennial of the birth of legendary folksinger Pete Seeger. Pete – who died January 27, 2014 at age 94 – was perhaps the most influential and certainly one of the most inspirational figures in the folk world.

When Pete died, I mentioned I was grateful for having had the opportunity to have known known him for most of my life and to have enjoyed some small measure of friendship with him.

John McCutcheon – who has surely been one of our finest folksingers for decades now – was also deeply inspired by Pete, whom he describes as “a beacon, a mentor, a friend, a musical partner” to him. On To Everyone in all the World: A Celebration of Pete Seeger, John offers a loving and masterful tribute to Pete with 15 songs from his repertoire (12 of them written or co-written by Pete), performed in many different styles, many of them featuring stellar guest collaborators.

John opens the album with great versions of the optimistic “Well May the World Go” with backing by Hot Rize, one of the finest of my generation’s bluegrass bands, and “If I Had a Hammer,” with members of the great Cajun band Beausoleil.

I could mention every other song as a highlight – and they all are – but I’ll call attention to a few.

Pete Seeger and John McCutcheon (2010)
“Die Gedanken Sind Frei,” a 19th century song that became an anti-Nazi rallying cry in Germany during the Second World War, is given a classical treatment with a brass ensemble and wonderful harmonies by Ottawa’s own Finest Kind.

“Sailing Down My Golden River,” my favorite of Pete’s many Hudson River songs, is a beautiful duet with Suzy Bogguss and features some lovely fills from John’s hammer dulcimer, while “Guantanamera,” Pete’s adaptation of a song made from the words of Cuban poet José Marti, has an infectious Latin arrangement and duet vocals by Nicaraguan singer Katia Cardenal.

“Letter to Eve,” which Pete used the biblical figures of Adam and Eve as the starting point for a critical commentary on the state of the world, is arranged brilliantly in a blues-jazz setting, while “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” – on which Pete used his army training experiences during the Second World War as a metaphor for the futility of the Vietnam War in the 1960s – has a powerful rock arrangement.

To Everyone in all the World: A Celebration of Pete Seeger is the first great folk album of 2019 and a most worthy companion to John’s previous centennial tributes marking the birth of Woody Guthrie and the execution of Joe Hill.

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Mike Regenstreif

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