1. Entertainment
Send to a Friend via Email

Your suggestion is on its way!

An email with a link to:

http://kidsmusic.about.com/od/musicreviews/fr/seegersisterschristmas.htm

was emailed to:

Thanks for sharing About.com with others!

You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

The Seeger Sisters - American Folk Songs for Christmas

Classic Christmas Music from the Seeger Family

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

By

The Seeger Sisters - American Folk Songs for Christmas

The Seeger Sisters - American Folk Songs for Christmas

Courtesy Folkways Recordings
If you've come looking for rousing, jolly, majestic holiday tunes, you've come to the wrong place with this album. However, if humble, sincere, authentic, homespun renditions of Christmas songs are your thing, The Seeger Sisters' American Folk Songs for Christmas will be a true listening treasure for you. American Folk Songs for Christmas originally appeared as a 10-inch LP on the Folkways label back in 1957. The songs on the record were chosen from Ruth Crawford Seeger's book of the same name, published in 1953 by Doubleday, with illustrations by famed children's book author and illustrator Barbara Cooney. The Seeger Sisters' style may be an acquired taste, but everyone should listen to American Folk Songs for Christmas at least once during the holidays.

The Artists

Peggy, Barbara, and Penny Seeger were the daughters of famed modern composer and folk music collector Ruth Crawford Seeger. Although their half-brother Pete Seeger has gained considerably more attention over the last half century, the Seeger sisters were accomplished artists and musicians in their own right. Ruth Crawford Seeger published her book of American Christmas songs in 1953 from which The Seeger Sisters chose 17 to include on their 1957 American Folk Songs for Christmas album. Many years later, Mike, Peggy, and Penny Seeger, along with Peggy's husband Ewan MacColl and their daughter Kitty, produced an expanded version of American Folk Songs for Christmas, which included and astounding 53 songs from their mother's book.

The Music of 'American Folk Songs for Christmas'

American Folk Songs for Christmas begins quietly with the very brief a cappella greeting to the new day, "In the Morning When I Rise." Then comes the somewhat somber, piano and vocals of "Oh, Watch the Stars," sounding a little like a rustic Joni Mitchell. Dancing piano notes accompany the mountain tune "Shine Like a Star in the Morning," while "Bright Morning Stars are Rising" has the feel of a quiet country church hymn. On the other hand, children from the South Boston Music School join in on "Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow," a tune recently covered by Dan Zanes on his holiday EP Christmas in Concord, as The Seeger Sisters contribute banjo and guitar, giving the tune a joyful air. The folk song "Joseph and Mary (The Cherry Tree Carol" is also supported by guitar and a rolling banjo, while the South Boston kids enthusiastically sing an a cappella version of "Oh, Mary and the Baby, Sweet Lamb" with handclaps. The a cappella "Babe of Bethlehem" has a similar gospel sound as "Bright Morning Stars are Rising," and the minor key "Cradle Hymn" has an Irish lilt accompanied by beautiful finger picking guitar. Side one of the original album ended with "Ain't That Rockin' All Night," a song that sounds nothing like the title suggests. Instead, the wistful tune is accompanied by quiet vocals and a wistful piano.

More Music from 'American Folk Songs for Christmas'

The kids from the South Boston Music School participate in the call-and-response "Sing Hallelu," while The Seeger Sisters harmonize on the sweet "Mary Had a Baby." The Boston Music children join in again on the jaunty "Jesus Born in Bethlea," and the brief a cappella "January, February...(The Last Month of the Year)" runs through the names of all the months until it reaches the "month my Jesus was born in." Piano and children's voices accompany the call-and-response spiritual "Poor Little Jesus," performed in a slow, dirge-like style. Then the tempo picks up with the joyful "The Angel Band," sung enthusiastically by the South Boston kids accompanied by a spirited banjo. American Folk Songs for Christmas comes to a close with the counting song "The Twelve Apostles," performed cheerfully again by the South Boston children and banjo.

The Verdict

The Seeger Sisters' American Folk Songs for Christmas gives listeners a unique look into a long-lost genre of music: historically correct, lo-fi folk music, performed without a hint of schmaltz or irony. Sure, the album isn't for everyone, but everyone should give it at least one spin. And make sure to check out the original liner notes, available on the Smithsonian Folkways website, for historical and performance insights into all the songs on .

Originally Released 1957; Folkways Records

Track Listing

  1. "In the Morning When I Rise"
  2. "Oh, Watch the Stars"
  3. "Shine Like a Star in the Morning"
  4. "Bright Morning Stars are Rising"
  5. "Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow"
  6. "Joseph and Mary (The Cherry Tree Carol"
  7. "Oh, Mary and the Baby, Sweet Lamb"
  8. "Babe of Bethlehem"
  9. "Cradle Hymn"
  10. "Ain't That Rockin' All Night"
  11. "Sing Hallelu"
  12. "Mary Had a Baby"
  13. "Jesus Born in Bethlea"
  14. "January, February...(The Last Month of the Year)"
  15. "Poor Little Jesus"
  16. "The Angel Band"
  17. "The Twelve Apostles"
  1. About.com
  2. Entertainment
  3. Children's Music
  4. Music Reviews
  5. The Seeger Sisters American Folk Songs for Christmas - Review of American Folk Songs for Christmas by The Seeger Sisters

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.