Pete Seeger, Darling Corey/Goofing-Off Suite

Dave Marsh

By Dave Marsh

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Placing this pair of mid-'50s Folkways EPs on one disc neatly conveys the range of Seeger's music. "Corey," from 1950, explores traditional banjo stylings, particularly those of the white Appalachians, featuring songs like "John Riley," "Danville Girl" and even "Get Along Little Dogies." Goofing Off, from 1955, takes the banjo in the opposite direction; it could be seen as the founding document of "new grass," in the sense that here, Seeger rejected everything that was limiting about traditional approaches to the instrument without abandoning tradition in any significant sense. The title is (deliberately?) deceptive, meant to suggest that this was the kind of stuff Pete did in idle moments. But it was no idle conception to pull together a seamless suite of songs with sources ranging from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony to "Get Along Little Cindy," or allow "The Girl I Left Behind Me" to slide into "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." It's an awesome achievement.