After a half century as a singer, songwriter and musician and approaching her 70th birthday, Peggy Seeger understands that a good song of any era will survive as long as long there’s someone with the knowledge and understanding to sing it. On Love Call Me Home, Peggy’s 21st solo album and the second volume in her “Home Trilogy,” she presents ten traditional North American songs and two new songs of her own composition. Volume 1, Heading for Home (2003), had the same mix of old and new songs, and Volume 3, entitled Bring Me Home, is already in the pipeline.
“I love new songs, yet I still find myself returning to the old ones,” Peggy explains in the CD’s liner notes. “Songs handed down to us by singers who loved and tended to them, as I love and tend to them for those who come after me. Songs that command my attention, not only when I sing them but during that coda of silence that always follows . . .” It is these songs that shape Peggy’s “Home Trilogy” of traditional songs, almost all of which she has never recorded.
It is not an idyllic world that Peggy puts before us. There are murder ballads (“Poor Ellen Smith”); stories of fidelity beyond the call of duty (“Hangman”); journeys into the supernatural (“Rynerdine”); tales of romantic betrayal (“Careless Love,” “Loving Hannah,” “Love is Teasing”); laments of the incarcerated (“Bad, Bad Girl,” “Logan County Jail”); and historical mysteries (“London Bridge,” “Who Killed Cock Robin?”). The two originals that bookend the CD are as topical but traditional-sounding as any she has written in her prolific career. The first track, “Sing About the Hard Times,” could be a 19th Century lament in which “Life gets harder every year / Those with the least have the most to fear” before referencing jobs outsourced to Mexico while workers get drawn into an unpopular war. The title song closes the album – written for Peggy’s friend Christine Lassiter, who died of cancer, it is a tender and philosophical glimpse of a life winding down and then out.
Peggy’s clear, ageless vocals and crystalline performances on banjo, dulcimer, autoharp, guitar and piano are enhanced by the participation of her two sons by her late husband, England’s revered songwriter and activist Ewan MacColl. Calum and Neill MacColl, are not only co-producing the “Home Trilogy” but they also act as directors, chorus members and instrumentalists; daughter Kitty MacColl joins in on backing vocals and is co-designer of the CD’s booklet. Four friends from Peggy’s adopted hometown of Asheville, North Carolina, join in with strings and voices on the opening track.
Peggy’s definition of “home” is broad enough to encompass her American birthplace; England, where she lived more than half her life and raised her family; club and concert stages around the world; her own physical body; and the traditional and topical music that has shaped her life and career. This is, indeed, an album that will call you home.