On September 25, Appleseed Recordings will simultaneously release two new recordings by Pete Seeger, America’s greatest living folk and topical songwriter and musical/political activist.
A More Perfect Union, which includes guest appearances by Bruce Springsteen, Tom Morello, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, and Dar Williams, contains 14 fresh new songs that present Pete’s responses to recent political, economic and environmental issues alongside gentler appreciations of life’s good moments, meditations on the future, and exhortations to individual action. Pete Remembers Woody, a two-CD set, celebrates the centennial birthyear of Pete’s friend, quasi-mentor and sometime musical partner, the late Woody Guthrie, through Pete’s spoken, firsthand reminiscences as one of the last contemporaries of our country’s first great topical songwriter. Interspersed are renditions of Woody’s songs by Pete with Woody’s son Arlo, other Guthrie-influenced performers, and Woody himself (from a vintage recording).
Following consecutive Grammy Award-winning CDs on Appleseed, At 89 (2008) and Tomorrow’s Children (2010), Seeger had no specific recording plans until he was approached by an old friend, singer-songwriter Lorre Wyatt, about completing some songs the two had worked on before a stroke sidelined Wyatt for 15 years. New songs co-written by the duo inevitably sprouted, and sessions for the co-billed A More Perfect Union took place near Pete’s home in Beacon, N.Y. Vocal contributions came from Bruce Springsteen (his third collaboration with Pete and sixth song recorded for Appleseed); former Rage Against the Machine guitar-shredder Tom Morello, also known as The Nightwatchman; outspoken musician/activist Steve Earle; Emmylou Harris, queen of all country-flavored singers; and Dar Williams, the extraordinary singer-songwriter who is active in many sociopolitical causes. Morello also plays lovely acoustic lead guitar on the heartwarming title song. On the CD’s opening song, “God’s Counting on Me . . . God’s Counting on You,” the passionate rasp of The Boss’s voice proclaims, “It’s time to turn things around/Trickle up, not trickle down,” a sentiment amplified on his latest CD, Wrecking Ball, which is rife with songs about economic injustice.
These two new Seeger CDs mark the 15th year the independent Appleseed label has been releasing Pete’s new and archival material, as well as three highly lauded collections of newly-recorded versions of Seeger-related songs performed by Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Joan Baez, Ani Difranco, Billy Bragg, and other great artists.
Seeger has been the recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Kennedy Center Award, the Presidential Medal of the Arts, a Lifetime Legends medal from the Library of Congress, and induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.