Along the way, musical selections illustrate Guthrie’s work, like “Highway Blues” as performed by his son, Arlo. Most performers throughout the aural documentary don’t get much of a billing. However, they include Fred Hellerman and Work O’ Weavers, the Almanac Singers doing “Reuben James,” Amy Fradmon singing a very Dixieland version of “Peace Pin Boogie,” and Steve Kirkman doing a rockin', Dylanesque rendition of “I’ve Got to Know." Guthrie himself is represented on “Union Maid” and joins with Cisco Houston on “New York Town.”
Of course, tributes and collections of Guthrie’s work by a variety of artists are not new, and Pete Remembers Woody can be considered another volume in the Appleseed Records library of such anthologies. I’m sure there are long-time fans for whom many of Seeger’s anecdotes are not new either. I’m equally certain, however, that these are the very listeners who will quickly add this set of discs to their own libraries. But I’m hopeful a wider net is cast, drawing in listeners who may know nothing or next to nothing about Guthrie, Seeger, and the times that shaped their pre-World War II work, as well as the suppressed songs they sang during the McCarthy era. Now, more than ever, we need to remember why we needed such spokespersons in the first place.
Because the releases are so different, I can’t say whether Pete Remembers Woody or A More Perfect Union should be the first package to purchase. Naturally, I’d suggest getting them together as they, in a very real sense, bookend the career of Pete Seeger. There’s a lot of wisdom learned after 93 years. Gratefully, it’s a real pleasure to hear him sing it and tell it.