music & politics: Pete Seeger & Lorre Wyatt
As political campaigns unfold in the United States and elsewhere across the world, rhetoric seems more common than inspiration, highlighting division more common than considering cooperation. That’s natural in a season of politics, I suppose, as highlighting differences is one of the objects of such activities. That encourages the emphasis to fall more readily on division rather than vision.
Into that fray at this political season come Pete Seeger and Lorre Wyatt with their album of songs called A More Perfect Union. The two men, long time musicians and long time friends, have seen more than a few seasons of change in their lives: in 1996 Wyatt had a stroke and it seemed he would never play or sing again, and Seeger has seen ninety three winters and summers pass. So they have perspective from which to sing.
God’s Counting on Me, God’s Counting on You opens the set of sixteen songs they offer on A More Perfect Union. With its reminders of personal responsibility and responsibility to care and act for others, it’s a rallying song in which liberal and conservative could find points of common ground -- though not without out a barb or two for the more conservative folk. Crossing generations, The Rivertown Kids join in on the song, as does Bruce Springsteen. Musically and in idea, it makes a fine opening track fro an album that celebrates connection, humor, and good faith in ways that are real, realistic, musical, and quite needed in a season of politics.
Backed only by the beat of percussion from Jeff Haynes, Wyatt gives a spare and memorable look at what is happening in parts of the world beyond the borders of the United States in These Days In Zimbabwe, while This Old Man Revisited is a mordant and gritty take on the foolishness of war, with Steve Earle and Dar Williams adding their voices.
Wyatt and Seeger know that as important as politics and causes may be, they are only one aspect of lives lived through humor and connection and love. Somos el Barco/We Are the Boat, perhaps the best known song Lorre Wyatt has written, could be heard as a love song, or a political one, or both if you choose. Howling for Our Supper finds the men’s sense of fun in full force, as they channel the voices of their four legged friends who are waiting to be fed as the musicians keep on composing songs. Bountiful River evokes and celebrates the beauty of life in the Hudson River Valley.
One strength of the album is that you could choose almost any song as a centerpiece for the ideas, from the title track to that one about the cats and dogs to songs called Fields of Harmony to Wonderful Friends. Keep the Flame Alive, could be, on the one hand, about preparing a home for winter, or the other, it could be about ideas and community, or, as with so many of the ideas here, it could fit both those ways, and others.
The last song Lorre Wyatt and Pete Seeger recorded for this album is one called Old Apples Still Can Make Good Sauce. It could be about aging, about wisdom, about poking fun, or a batch of other things -- you choose. What comes clear is that these old friends can still make good songs, too.
In that they are supported by many musicians who live in New York’s Hudson Valley, including The Rivertown Kids, Dave Eggar on cello, Sara Milonovich on violin, and Jeff Haynes on percussion. Seeger plays banjo, Wyatt adds guitar. Springsteen, Williams, Earle, and Emmylou Harris lend their voices, too, adding to the feeling of community anchored by the words and ideas of Pete Seeger and Lorre Wyatt, two wise old friends.
you may also wish to see
Music of Healing: Arising from the Troubles from Tommy Sands
Song for Election Day
listening through the changes