Heading for Home
As acclaimed for her socio-political compositions as for her bottomless repertoire of Anglo-American folk music, Peggy Seeger revisits her traditional roots on 'Heading for Home,' her 20th solo album. Aside from the opening, self-penned title track, a meditation on mortality, the other songs on this CD are revived from America's past, including a handful never previously recorded by Peggy. Among those accompanying Peggy's vocals, banjo, dulcimer and guitar are her sons, multi-instrumentalists Neill (formerly of The Bible) and Calum (a Van Morrison sideman), who co-produced the CD, her daughter Kitty on backing vocals, and brother Mike, solo artist and founding member of the New Lost City Ramblers. The spare instrumentation highlights Peggy's ageless, unaffected vocals on an assortment of songs about love, lust, war, murder, friendship, poverty, class inequality - the compositions may date from the past but are still alive and relevant today. Peggy's prominent, rippling banjo gives many of the songs a tinge of bluegrass and 'mountain music,' closing the circle between their oft-British origins and subsequent American adaptations. Like her half-brother Pete and brother Mike, Peggy Seeger simultaneously preserves and extends the situations and plain sung emotions of traditional folk music while emphasizing the undying connections between roots music and modern-day life. 'In my head, I try to be constantly involved with the people who made the songs, and to understand why they made them,' Peggy told Dirty Linen magazine recently. 'Folk music is it's own person. It doesn't need us to bring along our individual egos to do something with it.' Bio: Born in 1935, Peggy Seeger has spent her life saturated in music. Her mother, composer- pianist Ruth Crawford Seeger, was the first woman to be awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship Award for Music; her father, Charles Seeger, was a pioneer in ethnomusicology. Her half-brother, Pete, is an international icon for music and activism; her brother Mike is an 'old-time music' scholar and archivist, founding member of the New Lost City Ramblers, and solo artist. Her husband of three decades until his death in 1989 was English singer, songwriter and dramatist Ewan MacColl, who penned the classic 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' in Peggy's honor, and their three children - Neill, Calum and Kitty - carry on the family's musical tradition. Considered one of the finest interpreters of Anglo-American folk songs, Peggy has written many original songs, frequently dealing with political, feminist and ecological subjects. Among her most famous compositions are 'Gonna Be an Engineer,' which was adopted as an early feminist anthem, and 'The Ballad of Springhill,' about a 1958 Canadian mining disaster. After spending two years at Radcliffe College in Massachusetts, where she began to perform professionally, Peggy recorded her first album, Folksongs of Courting and Complaint, in 1954. The following year, Peggy traveled to Russia, China and throughout Europe, ending up in England, where she met MacColl in 1956: 'We were together 24 hours a day for three decades, two people rolled compatibly into one.' As the Sixties began, Peggy and Ewan ascended to the forefront of the British folk revival, singing and lecturing about the place of the folk song in modern life, emphasizing the connections between traditional song forms and political activism. The duo, with BBC producer Charles Parker, developed the innovative 'radio ballad' form, a tapestry of spoken vocals, sound effects and newly written folk songs recently reissued as an 8-CD set. Seeger and MacColl also ran the London Critics Group, operated and performed at one of England's best known folk venues, The Singers Club, and formed their own record company, Blackthorne. Peggy also wrote music for and performed in films, television programs and radio plays, and established and edited a magazine of contemporary songs, 'The New City Songwriters,' during it's 1965-85 existence. She also helped assemble books of folk songs with MacColl, Alan Lomax and Edith Fowke. In 1971, she was the subject of a British television documentary; in 1995, BBC Radio broadcast an award-winning series about her life, with subsequent episodes presented in 1996 and 1997. In 1983, Peggy began singing occasionally with Irish traditional vocalist Irene Scott, and they formed the performing and recording duo No Spring Chickens after MacColl's demise. Peggy moved back to the States in 1994 and has continued her career as singer, recording artist, and lecturer, using Asheville, North Carolina, as her home base. The 150 best of Peggy's pre 1998 compositions were published in her 'Peggy Seeger Songbook' (Oak Publications). As of 2003, Peggy has recorded 20 solo albums and contributed to more than 100 other recordings.