Solo performer: Pete Seeger (vocals, 12-string guitar, banjo).
Producer: Moses Asch.
Compilation producers: Jeff Place, Guy Logsdon.
Recorded between 1950 & 1962. Includes liner notes by Guy Logsdon, Jeff Place.
All tracks have been digitally remastered.
Personnel: Pete Seeger (vocals, guitar, 12-string guitar, banjo).
Recording information: 1950-1962.
Editor: Jacob Love.
Arranger: Herb Ledbetter.
The title of this reissue might seem straightforward enough, but before discussing the music, its exact contents need some explanation. In the late '50s and early '60s, Seeger did five volumes of a series entitled American Favorite Ballads. Although this CD is called American Favorite Ballads, Vol. 1, it is not the same as the first of the Folkways LPs that came out in this series. Its 28 tracks do include every song that came out on the first volume of American Favorite Ballads (issued in 1957 on the LP Folkways FA 2320), except "Buffalo Gals." However, the CD also contains selections from all four of the other LPs in the American Favorite Ballads series, as well as a previously unreleased 1958 version of "This Land Is Your Land" and a 1954 take of "Wayfaring Stranger" that originally came out on a Folkways release that was not part of the American Favorite Ballads series. There will be a test on this next week, but after digesting all that, you can put down your pencil and paper and listen to the music. Most of these songs are familiar to the majority of Americans, and many listeners first came across them through Seeger, whether or not through these recordings specifically. "John Henry," "America the Beautiful," "Oh, Susanna," "Goodnight Irene," "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "Skip to My Lou," "Clementine," "Yankee Doodle," "Wayfaring Stranger," "Oh, Mary, Don't You Weep," "On Top of Old Smoky," and "I've Been Working on the Railroad" are just the most familiar. In and of themselves, Seeger's renditions are not the most exciting ones, delivered in his plain-spoken manner with no accompaniment other than his banjo or guitar. They do, however, form an important part of 20th century music, with Seeger a prime vehicle for their exposure. The CD reissue has detailed notes about the history of each song, as well as a general overview of Seeger's early career. ~ Richie Unterberger