Personnel: Pete Seeger (vocals, 12-string guitar, banjo); Pete Seeger (guitar).
Liner Note Authors: Jeff Place; Guy Logsdon.
Recording information: 1954-1962.
Translator: Oscar Brand.
Once upon a time, the term "ballad" didn't mean slow and weepy, it just meant the song told a story. Pete Seeger doesn't strictly adhere to that definition on this set of great, well-known songs. Then again, it has never been Seeger's nature to adhere to any particular musical definition. He's been blurring the lines between folk music, pop music, and, yes, classic and current ballads, as early as his work in the Almanac Singers during the late 40s with Woody Guthrie. Not strictly folk, "St. Louis Blues" and "Swanee River" are composed tunes with known authors. Not strictly balladic, "New River Train" doesn't really tell a story, nor does the instrumental "The Girl I Left Behind." Songs like "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain," "Arkansas Traveler," "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" and "Boll Weevil" flow as an undercurrent through American popular culture, informing the musical gestalt. Here Seeger plays and performs solo, with a great deal of brio and stripped-down simplicity in both his banjo and voice. The collection sounds like something recorded by a song-catcher, sketches of tunes recorded on the run. However, not a note is sour, not a lyric is missed, making the album not so much documentary as document.