September 30, 2008
Appleseed Records
Folk, Traditional Folk, Protest Songs, Work Song

Album Review

Pete Seeger already has more albums in print than most people could ever listen to, but he continues to astonish with his joie de vivre and creativity. This 32-track collection was recorded live and in the studio, during his 89th year, and is full of Seeger tunes, new and old, as well as spoken word passages that introduce and illuminate the songs. The five spoken word passages are full of hard-won wisdom, and may sound fine between songs at a concert, but on a CD they don't really work. That leaves you with 14 Seeger songs, guaranteed to inspire. "False from True" is a New Orleans-style Dixieland blues that examines mortality and aging with a mournful but still hopeful eye. Clarinet, banjo, and bass provide gentle support to this song from 1968 that sounds even more poignant in Seeger's slightly cracked 89-year-old voice. "If It Can't Be Reduced" is a new song, based on the City of Berkeley's zero waste resolution -- "If it can't be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production." A young woman suggested Seeger use the words to write a song, and he did. With his 12-string guitar chiming and a chorus of friends, he turns the words into a childlike hymn to recycling that'll make you grin as you sing along. "If This World Survives" was written with Berkeley songwriter Malvina Reynolds, and Seeger leads an a cappella chorus to deliver its message of hope. "Tzena, Tzena, Tzena" was a hit for the Weavers in the '50s, a song by Israeli soldier/songwriter Yehiel Haggiz. Here Seeger and friends sing it in Hebrew and Arabic as an affirmation of brotherhood and understanding. "Bach at Treblinka" borrows a bit from Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring for this song about the Nazi death camps. Martha Sandefer delivers the chilling lyrics. In Treblinka the guards organized an orchestra of prisoners to play each morning for the prisoners marching off to their day of slave labor. It's slightly less than a minute long, but it's devastatingly powerful. "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" was written during the Vietnam War about those who blindly plow ahead, even when they put the lives of others at risk. It was written about LBJ, but it fits W to a T. As you might expect from a Seeger album, the songs on At 89 take on some of the problems faced by America in 2008, and while the music is sometimes touched by melancholy, Seeger's faith in his fellow humans shines through clearly.
j. poet, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Nameless Banjo Riff
  2. False from True
  3. Now We Sit Us Down
  4. Pete's Greeting
  5. Visions of Children
  6. Wonderful Friends
  7. The Water Is Wide
  8. Pete Talks About Clearwater
  9. It's a Long Haul
  10. Throw Away That Shad Net (How Are We Gonna Save Tomorrow?)
  11. Song of the World's Last Whale
  12. The First Settlers
  13. The D Minor Flourish/Cindy
  14. Pete's Intro to If It Can't Be Reduced
  15. If It Can't Be Reduced
  16. Spring Fever
  17. Pete Speaks About World War II
  18. When I Was Most Beautiful
  19. Bach at Treblinka
  20. We Will Love or We Will Perish
  21. The Story of Tzena, Tzena, Tzena
  22. Tzena, Tzena, Tzena
  23. One Percent Phosphorous Banjo Riff
  24. Pete Speaks About Involvement
  25. Or Else! (One-a These Days)
  26. Waist Deep in the Big Muddy
  27. Little Fat Baby
  28. Arrange and Re-Arrange
  29. Alleluya
  30. Pete's Extroduction
  31. If This World Survives
  32. How Soon?
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