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

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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 in August 2009. 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.”

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