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American Folk Songs for Christmas
Mike Seeger & Penny
American Folk Songs for Christmas
Genres: Country, Folk, Special Interest, Pop, Classical
  •  Track Listings (28) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (25) - Disc #2

American Folk Songs for Christmas amounts to an extraordinary and large collection of unvarnished American folk songs sung and played by the Seeger family with help from British friends and folksinger-playwright Ewan MacC...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Mike Seeger & Penny
Title: American Folk Songs for Christmas
Members Wishing: 4
Total Copies: 0
Label: Rounder Select
Release Date: 9/16/1992
Genres: Country, Folk, Special Interest, Pop, Classical
Styles: Classic Country, Traditional Folk, Contemporary Folk, Holiday & Wedding, Vocal Pop, Opera & Classical Vocal
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaCD Credits: 2
UPC: 011661026827

American Folk Songs for Christmas amounts to an extraordinary and large collection of unvarnished American folk songs sung and played by the Seeger family with help from British friends and folksinger-playwright Ewan MacColl and daughter Kitty. Unassuming and full of old-fashioned good times, this CD's simple pleasures are derived from gospel music and lost carols, mountain hymns, a sprinkling of popular standards, spirituals, and such "earthy" instruments as the concertina, fiddle, piano, dulcimer, banjo, jaw harp, whistle and plain-singing human voices and joyous handclaps. The disc's panoramic look into Christmas from another time and place is just right for those caught up in today's "simplicity" movement where less is definitely more--or for anyone wanting to get out from under the oppressive weight of so much commercialized product. Recommended. --Martin Keller

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CD Reviews

The best of American folk songs for Christmas
M. J. Smith | Seattle, WA USA | 11/12/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This album contains 53 American folk songs for Christmas from Ruth Crawford Seeger's work as performed by her children Mike, Penny and Penny Seeger and their families. (Yes, these are half siblings to Pete Seeger). The children have taken liberties in the sense of not trying to recreate traditional performances or replicate the piano version of their mother on other instruments. However, all of them are primarily folk musicians so the album is definately "folk".Instrumentation varies - piano, bowed psaltery, slide guitar, guitar, mandolin, dulcimer, concertina, fiddle, autoharp ... The voicing also varies - solo pieces, duets, and "the whole shebang". The performances are of consistently high quality - with a love of the material shining through.In listening to the album, the first thing that is noted is the volume of the songs that concern the stars - followed by lambs and pure rejoicing.If you are not interested in American folk music, you may find the two cd's too much of a good thing. If you are interested, this is a must have for any well rounded collection."
As traditional as you get these days
Peter Durward Harris | Leicester England | 09/10/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Ruth Crawford Seeger was a folk music fanatic who compiled a series of books, one of which was devoted to Christmas songs. It is from that book that the album title and all but two of the tracks are taken (the liner notes do not say which two), although some of the tracks are not performed exactly as Ruth described.

Three of Ruth's children (Mike, Peggy and Penny Seeger), four of her grandchildren (Sonya Cohen, Calum MacColl, Kitty MacColl and Kim Seeger) and Ewan MacColl, father of Calum and Kitty (their mother was Peggy), took part in the project. Note that Kitty MacColl must not be confused with Kirsty MacColl, a daughter of Ewan MacColl by a previous marriage. Kirsty, of course, was a brilliant singer in her own right and I've already reviewed Galore, the best compilation of her music.

The songs, mostly unfamiliar, are sequenced to tell the Christmas story. The first eleven tracks are about stars, shepherds, sheep and a journey to Bethlehem, so - you must wait till track fifteen (Baby born today) to actually hear about the birth. You will surely recognize Go tell it on the mountain and Twelve days of Christmas. I also recognized Christmas day in the morning, though it is rarely recorded these days.

There is variety in the arrangements - some solo, some duets and some choral - with various instruments being used, or sometimes none at all. Some of the instruments do not strictly fit the traditional concept of the album but the overall feel of the album is very traditional.

Unless you are really into traditional folk music, you may find that two and a half hours is more than you want of it in one session (you may prefer to play one CD then play other music before playing the other CD), but there is no denying the quality of the performances here.

The only other Christmas album I have that is comparable is Maddy Prior's Carols and capers. If you enjoy that album, give this a listen. And if you haven't heard that but you enjoy this, give Maddy Prior a listen."
My favorite Christmas recording -- ever.
Paul Stamler | St. Louis, MO U.S.A. | 01/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In the 1940s composer/folklorist Ruth Crawford Seeger assembled a collection of traditional American Christmas songs from Library of Congress field recordings, old manuscripts and WPA collections into a landmark book, "American Folk Songs for Christmas". There weren't the carols you hear in the shopping mall, but the songs found deep in Anglo- and African-American traditions, and they were wondrous. In the 1980s Seeger's children, Mike, Peggy and Penny Seeger, all accomplished performers of traditional songs, got together with their families (including Peggy's husband, the British folk giant Ewan MacColl) to record all of the songs in their mother's book. The result is magnificent; the musicians arranged the songs in various styles, ranging from unaccompanied solos and groups to full-on string-band settings. The songs will mostly be new to you, the spirit infectious, the overall effect delightful -- whether you're a Christian or not, these songs are among the treasures of our culture, and the performances are exemplary. I recommend this set wholeheartedly -- in fact, the one I'm reviewing is the second copy I've bought, as a gift for a family in Italy who have shared their Christmas traditions with us."