At age 93, Pete Seeger with his gentle banjo in’t ready to go gently into that good night. In the past five years, he’s released two Grammy-winning albums, At 89 (2008) and Tomorrow’s Children (2010). Now, on September 25, 2012, he has two discs coming out simultaneously. A More Perfect Union focuses on the present and future, while Pete Remembers Woody is a look back into his past with his friend, Woody Guthrie.
A More Perfect Union is a very contemporary release, a collaboration between Seeger and singer/songwriter Lorre Wyatt. Fifteen years back, the pair had begun work on some songs before Wyatt suffered a stroke that curtailed the project. When Wyatt contacted Seeger again, naturally old songs were revised and new songs composed that resonated with Seeger’s lifelong themes of community responsibility, or mutual interdependence, our reliance on the environment, and the joys of music. As he has always done, Seeger spins melodies that are simple—and often deliberately childlike—affirming, lovely, and many times laced with not too subtle metaphors.
It’s no surprise that Seeger has influenced generations of singer/songwriters, and A More Perfect Union includes some notable performers who owe a debt to the old master. The opening track, “God’s Counting on Me...God's Counting on You," is a case in point. Bruce Springsteen joins in for two choruses of a very topical number inspired by the Gulf oil spill, but with lines as up-to-date as this fall’s election: “It’s time to turn things around/Trickle up, not trickle down.”
Of course, not everything is so barbed. Seeger slyly notes “Old Apples” might be wrinkly, but they still “make good sauce.” Natural imagery continues in the haunting “Keep the Flame Alive” where Seeger advises us to choose wood carefully to feed winter fires. He expresses his ecological worries in the slow sermon "Somebody Else's Eye," wondering if we’re ready now to save our world.
As always, the natural world serves as an ideal means for metaphors. We all sail together in streams, rivers, and the sea in "Somos el Barco/We Are the Boat," sung with Emmylou Harris. The same theme is repeated in the extended "Bountiful River" where immersion in the water fills the soul and renews the heart.