Saturday, April 22, 2006

These are a few of my favorite songs (part 3)

Somehow I feel all is right with the world when I hear a banjo. I can't explain that. I wonder if I learned to play one whether I wouldn't just sit around my apartment all day, strumming the same notes obsessively.

Anyway, here are some favorite traditional (or traditional-sounding) folk songs.

"Well May The World Go" by Pete Seeger (the one I marked as my favorite is from the Together album with Arlo Guthrie)
"Gotta Travel On" from Weavers Classics (originally from the "Travelling On With The Weavers" LP)
Both these songs are about somebody saying goodbye -- the first, wishing the world well; the second, with a clear resentment at having stayed so long. I've felt that way about leaving things in my life. I was terrible at my first job, in the summer between junior and senior years, and they said either I had to do better or leave, and since I was doing my best, I left. When I got home I played Weavers albums to cheer myself up and when "Gotta Travel On" came on, I just felt so much better -- forget you, summer's almost gone! The song still resonates with me as a way of relieving myself of stress.
"Fifty Sail on Newburgh Bay" (from the album with this title) by Pete Seeger and Ed Renehan
This was one of the first Pete Seeger albums I ever heard; I checked it and one other out of the Sunset Branch Library in San Francisco when I was about ten or eleven. There's nothing that particularly important about this song other than that (besides being up-tempo) it was my introduction to folk music, over twenty-five years ago now. In high school (actually it was the very last weekend of high school before graduation) I bought this LP new from a record store; it was a tremendous find. I drove to Montréal from the New York City area in 1998 and this song and the other songs on this album (a collection of songs about the Hudson River, some like this one written by the historian William Gekle) were running through my head the whole time.
"We Shall Overcome" (my version is recorded from the album of the same title by Pete Seeger)
I don't think there's much I can say about this. It's the great anthem of the Civil Rights movement.
"Over The Hills" from Love Songs for Friends and Foes by Pete Seeger
This is another album I first found at the library, this time from the San Mateo library in high school. I like the melody on this piece, and I think it's romantic.
"The Fools of '49" from Gold Rush Songs by Pat Foster
Yes, this is another item from the San Mateo city library. Good luck finding it online... Two of the other songs from this album are available at eMusic but the whole album is not available and somehow I doubt it ever will be. (I ultimately found an old LP copy for myself through GEMM.) It's too bad because, although this might sound like it's just a compilation of songs of historical interest only, it's very melodic, especially this song. The song is about the various ways to get to San Francisco during the Gold Rush and harsh conditions in every type of trip (sailing to Panama or around the Horn, or coming overland). The chorus goes: "Then they thought of what they had been told / When they started after gold / That they never in this world would make a pile."

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