Part tribute to Pete Seeger, part nod to Appleseed Recordings' 10th anniversary, Sowing the Seeds
is an exquisite collection of classic tunes sung by folk music legends, including Pete Seeger
, Lou Reed, Ani DiFranco
, Arlo Guthrie
, Judy Collins, Bruce Springsteen and a slew of others. Exceptional performances are given by all of the above, although the best performance on the record comes from Seeger himself, along with his son Tao Rodriguez, on “The Ross Perot (George Bush) Guide to Answering Embarrassing Questions.”
Tom Paxton, Judy Collins and Lizzie West
and Anne Hills' collaboration on "There Goes the Mountain"
is a sad, lovely, simple tribute to this great song, featuring only voices, guitar, piano and subtly arranged percussion. Paxton and Hills' vocals are responsible for most of the song's dynamics, and they do so with exquisite precision, swapping lines on the final verse.
Judy Collins' performance on "Oh, Had I a Golden Thread," is impeccable, showcasing her lovely, high, clear soprano. Lizzie West offers a fine performance on "19 Miles to Baghdad" ("19 miles to Baghdad / What have I become? ... Tie a yellow ribbon around something / Something good has begun"). Kim and Reggie Harris offer an exceptional performance of "If You Miss Me at the Back of the Bus."
Pete Seeger's Many Appearances
Pete Seeger makes several appearances, including on "Music of Healing,"
with Tommy Sands and others. The chorus comes in like a drinking song about peace and love, followed by Seeger's voice on the second verse. "I've learned to be hard and I've learned how to tremble," he sings. Intermittently, he comes in to tell stories and recite poems, all of which are timeless and powerful tales of overcoming hardships, of peaceful resistance and love, in general. He also makes a memorable appearance with Bruce Springsteen
on "Ghost of Tom Joad."
The Bottom Line
Bruce Cockburn’s "Namaste" is sweet and engaging, rolling out with pop-like harmonies and acoustic guitar strumming. Ramblin' Jack Elliot
’s "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" is one of the best recordings of the song in recent memory. Jackson Browne and Joan Baez provide a respectable "Guantanamera,"
with excellent harmonies on the chorus, and smooth verses. Eric Andersen and Wyclef Jean perform an outstanding rendition of "White Boots Marching in a Yellow Land"
with poignantly updated arrangements—turntable scratches, trumpet fanfare and electric guitar riffs, et al. In fact, that song stands out as one of the best on both discs.
The first disc is focused on protest songs, while the second is more loosely themed with a subtitle, "Peace, Love and Appleseed," and featuring quite a bit more from Pete Seeger, as well as excellent tunes by Donovan, Lou Reed, Judy Collins, and several others. As a complete package, Sowing the Seeds is an excellent disc paying tribute to Appleseed Records, who are responsible for releasing ten years-worth of outstanding Americana.