Folk Time Tunnel- Amchitka & Pete Seeger

Due to a miscommunication, my column scheduled for last week ran today. No big deal really as I was not advancing anything of a time-sensitive matter. However, since the column was submitted, a couple interesting shows have been added to the local roots music calendar.

This coming Friday, Dec. 18, a fundraiser for a few area charities including the food bank goes at The Hub downtown featuring a variety of acts- the only one I have nailed down is Will White with Byron Myhre. $10 at the door and I’ll try to find the entire slate. Also, in huge news, Sam Baker with Gurf Morlix will make a Valentine’s Day appearance at the Matchbox. I caught the pair at the Edmonton Folk Festival this summer, and I dare say Gurf almost overshadowed Sam.  I have already reserved my tickets for that one. Also, bluesman Mark Sterling brings The Songs of John Lennon to the same venue March 6.

This week I reviewed two new albums, the Amchitka set from Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and Phil Ochs and the 1965 live set from Pete Seeger.

Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and Phil Ochs



A double-set documenting the 1970 Vancouver event ($3 a ticket!) that launched the endeavours of Greenpeace, those of a certain age are sure to find Amchitk fascinating.

Looking back, a very impressive lineup: Joni Mitchell at the peak of her powers, prior to going arty; James Taylor having just released his breakthrough Sweet Baby James album; and Phil Ochs, the poet prince of the Greenwich Village set.

Mitchell is more lighthearted than one might expect, cracking wise dropping a snippet of Bonie Maronie into Big Yellow Taxi, asking forgiveness to ‘putter around here a minute’ when she loses her way during For Free. Mitchell features a number of tunes from Ladies of the Canyon, and performs on guitar, piano, and dulcimer. Mr. Tambourine Man is just one of the delightful surprises within her thirty five-minute set, made more so when Taylor ambles in to bring it home.

Taylor sings from his first three albums, including tunes from the then unreleased Mud Slide Slim. Songs that would become standards- Carolina in My Mind, Something in the Way She Moves, Fire and Rain– resonate brightly almost forty years later.

At the time, Phil Ochs was as big a name within folk circles as Mitchell, lacking populist appeal perhaps but unrepentant in his convictions. A seven-minute rendition of Joe Hill is masterful, while I Ain’t Marching Anymore and Rhythms of Revolution reminds one of a time when it appeared music just may change the world. Throughout the set Ochs demonstrates that earnestness need not defeat entertainment.

As a sliver of folk-rock history, Amchitka (named for the Aleutian Island where U.S. nuclear bomb tests were protested by Greenpeace) captures a seminal moment in the development of the folk-rock, singer-songwriter era.

Devoid of the planned spontaneity such a benefit now requires, this set highlights a time when the music world seemed less like business and more like community.

Pete Seeger

Live in ’65

Appleseed Recordings

To be valued as true ‘folk music’ there needs to be more than an acoustic guitar or banjo and slightly off-key singing. An attempt to encourage social upheaval thorough a revolution inspired by music is at the core of folk music- whether challenging the structures of 18th century Britain or the constraints of 20th century America, the singer encouraged change.

Recorded in Pittsburgh in 1965, this set captures Pete Seeger at his storytelling and entertaining finest. His manner seems quite quaint more than forty years later; it is hard to imagine that politics and activism made him a target of government scrutiny. Yet his influence on those who would follow- from Bruce Springsteen (who rewrote He Lies in an American Land, included here) to Billy Bragg and Ani DiFranco- is obvious.

Among the 31 cuts included in this previously unreleased concert recording are Seeger standards including Turn! Turn! Turn!, Guantanamera, This Little Light of Mine, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, and Old Joe Clark. Less familiar and as such a little more interesting may be Peat Bog Soldiers with its roots in a Nazi concentration camp, Going Across the Mountain, and When I First Came to This Land. Lovely.

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