One of the foremost interpreters of Anglo-American
folk music and a groundbreaking songwriter concludes her
“Home Trilogy” of traditional favorites and poignant new originals.
“These old songs . . . I wouldn’t know how to live without them.”
– Peggy Seeger
After the joyous interruption of an all-star 70th birthday party onstage at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, captured on last year’s Three Score and Ten 2-CD set, Bring Me Home completes Peggy Seeger’s “Home Trilogy” of CDs, containing indelible songs from the past capped by a tender new original composition saluting the beloved figures of her own personal history.
Like the preceding “Home” volumes, Heading for Home (2003) and Love Call Me Home (2005), Peggy has chosen songs that, as she says, “tap me on the shoulder,” that are “companions when I am lonely or when I’m on a long solo drive between gigs.” Mostly learned during her childhood as a member of one of America’s “first families of folk,” the dozen traditional U.S. songs on Bring Me Home, nine previously unrecorded by Peggy, remain potent and plainspoken, rough edges still intact.
With authentically minimal instrumentation (mostly her own 5-string banjo, guitar and English concertina), Peggy sings of timeless situations in less “civilized” times. There are ruffians headed for the gallows (“Hang Me,” “Newlyn Town”), the poor and homeless driven to desperate deeds (“Peacock Street”), young women trying to assert their independence with varying results (“Wagoner’s Lad,” “Home, Dearie, Home,” “Little Birdie”), working class testimonials (“Let Them Wear Their Watches Fine,” “Peacock Street”), and wandering lovers (“Roving Gambler,” “Dink’s Song”). And, of course, what’s traditional music without bloodshed? In “Molly Bond,” one of the two songs Peggy performs in haunting a cappella, the heroine is mistaken for a swan and slain by her lover. In her wonderfully tart liner notes, Peggy summarizes “O The Wind and Rain,” for which her son Calum, the “Home Trilogy” producer, provides an eerie, droning harmonium accompaniment, as “Sister drowning sister, brother stabbing brother, fathers burning their daughters at the stake, mothers strangling their babies . . . ah, family life!”
Peggy brings the CD and trilogy to a gentle close with the self-penned title track, a loving tribute to her own extended family, including her parents; half-brother and international folk icon Pete Seeger; brother and fellow musician Mike; her late husband, the revered English songwriter and activist Ewan MacColl (“The first time ever I saw his face/His heart became my home”); and her current partner, Irene Pyper-Scott. The next generation of Seeger/MacColls is represented by Peggy’s sons Calum (producer, guitar, harmonium, backing vocals) and Neill (guitar, autoharp, mandolin, backing vocals) and daughter Kitty, who co-designed the CD’s packaging.
The “Home Trilogy” completes a chapter of Peggy’s musical life, but she’s far from ready to close the book. There are plans afoot for CDs of lighthearted traditional songs and contemporary material, an informal 2008 release of topical songs on her own homegrown Timely label, plus concerts to play, students to teach (she’s a visiting professor of songwriting at Northeastern University in Boston), family to visit and a home that she carries wherever she goes.