Every once in awhile, and I have to be in the mood, I pull this old war horse off the shelf and give it a spin.
The Weavers were an important and transitional folk group. They were a connector of the early folk traditions of many countries and the style of Woody Guthrie to the pop type folk of The Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul, and Mary.
Banjo player and tenor vocalist Pete Seeger, bass vocalist Lee Hays, baritone vocalist and guitarist Fred Hellerman, and alto vocalist Ronnie Gilbert formed the group in 1948 and within a year they were stars due to their cover of the old Ledbelly tune, “Goodnight Irene.” Fame was fleeting as their leftist political beliefs and songs of protest were not appreciated during the McCarthy era. They found themselves blacklisted as performers plus their label fired them. In fact, The Decca label deleted all of the group’s material from their catalogue. They would disband in 1952.
A different political climate would begin to permeate The United States during the mid-1950s. This would prompt the group to re-unite for their historic concert at Carnegie Hall on December 24, 1955. This concert would be released on the Vanguard label as The Weavers At Carnegie Hall in 1957. In many ways this concert and album signaled the beginning of the folk revival movement in The United States.
The Weavers sang traditional folk songs but with two, three, and four part harmonies which was a unique approach at the time. Their voices would entwine and even challenge each other. They would support their sound with Seeger’s long neck banjo and Hellerman’s Spanish guitar.
The amazing thing about this early live release is the sound. This 1955 concert has a clearer sound than many concert recordings that would follow over the next half century. You can actually hear the group members pronounce each word clearly which is important to the stories that the songs tell. I can’t help but think that the acoustics at Carnegie Hall helped a great deal in this area. In addition the album notes are extensive and informative.