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Roger McGuinn
Treasures from the Folk Den
Appleseed Recordings APR CD 1046, 2001 (62:47)

Old folkies never die

Dan Macintosh, 2 June 2002

Roger McGuinn will always be best known for his role as the innovative front person in the Byrds, the genre-jumping band of the '60s. But he began as an accompanist for the Chad Mitchell Trio before becoming a member of Bobby Darin's group in his folk phase. His sessions with Hoyt Axton, Judy Collins and the like at that time secured for good his solid folk roots. He was a folkie who fell in love with the Beatles, it is true, but he never lost his appreciation for folk music and its classic songs.

This gathering of fellow folk icons can be considered a return to roots of sorts for Mr. McGuinn, but oh, what a delightful homecoming it is.

He could have easily gathered together an all star collection of pop and rock stars for the purpose of paying tribute to the songs that first tickled his fancy as a youth. Instead, he invited diehard folk troubadours such as Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins and Odetta for a kind of Bleeker Street family reunion.

McGuinn recorded this album as a hard copy extension of the work he has been doing on his web site, where he tries to record a folk song a month and make them available for site visitors to download. Not everyone has the technology to gather music from the web yet, which is one big reason why this CD project came to fruition. Besides, the combination of high tech procedures and back-to-nature folk music aficionados is probably not common.

As he explains in the liner notes, McGuinn drove - along with his trusty computer and multi-track software - to the homes of his intended recording partners, in much the same way Alan Lomax once traveled the back roads to capture the early music of America.

Most of these songs are traditional, without many writers' names listed on the credits. The CD booklet, in fact, acts as a kind of history pamphlet, by explaining the origins and inspirations for these songs. It actually ends with a new Pete Seeger song, however, which McGuinn titled "Pete's Song." It sums up Pete's lifetime mission as a folk envoy with its final verse.

To build a world where all can share
The big and small, the low and high
We'll never know if we will succeed
But I believe that we must try

This album covers a lot of musical territory for just one disc - at least a continent's worth, and then some - including sea chanteys ("Bonnie Ship the Diamond"), chain gang songs ("Cane Blues") and Irish sounds ("Reel"). Spirituals and blues are also touched upon with "John the Revelator" and "The Virgin Mary."

The most Byrd-like track on this 18-song disc is his duet with Judy Collins on "John Riley" with its distinctive McGuinn Rickenbacker electric 12-string guitar accompaniment.

Listening to this album leaves one a lasting vibe/impression of just how much of a deep love McGuinn has for this music. He doesn't try to modernize the stuff, or somehow make it hip. Besides, songs don't survive this long unless they really have something going for them. How can one even try to improve upon an already good thing?

McGuinn remarks in the liner notes that he doesn't hear many songs like these anymore, and he's absolutely correct in his remark. But now with his recorded labor of love, many newcomers will have a chance to experience the songs and sounds that turned on McGuinn in the first place. Thanks be to Roger McGuinn for bringing these treasures out of his den.

performers  Roger McGuinn, guitar, vocals, 5-string banjo; Joan Baez, guitar, vocals; Eliza Carthy, fiddle; Pete Seeger: 12-string guitar, 5-string banjo, vocals, recorder; Josh White Jr.,vocals, guitar; Martin Green: accordion; Judy Collins: vocals; Jean Ritchie: dulcimer, vocals; Odetta: guitar, vocals; Elizabeth Spaul: vocals; Tommy Makem: vocals; The Makem Brothers: vocals; Frank & Mary Hamilton: guitar, vocals

production  Produced and mixed by Roger McGuinn and Camilla McGuinn; mastered by Roger McGuinn

songs  Wagoner's Lad · Dink's Song · Bonnie Ship the Diamond · Cane Blues · Reel · Fair Nottamun Town · John the Revelator · Alabama Bound · Finnegan's Wake · In the Evenin' · Willie Moore · The Brazos River · Sail Away Lady · John Riley · Trouble in Mind · Whiskey in the Jar · The Virgin Mary · Pete's Song ·

Copyright © 2002 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.