At Carnegie Hall: The Legendary 1955 Recording
The Weavers were a social and cultural anomaly. A politicized, left-leaning folk group who scored massive pop hits with orchestrated versions of sugary gentle songs like "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" and Leadbelly's "Goodnight Irene," songs that were anything but political, the Weavers were portrayed as a collective version of the Big Bad Wolf when the McCarthy era hit, and their record label, Decca, was forced to put the group on a recording hiatus in 1952 because of political pressure. The group members (Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman and Pete Seeger) went their separate ways. With the fall of Joe McCarthy, however, the political climate in the U.S. began to loosen again, and the Weavers re-formed for a Christmas Eve concert at Carnegie Hall in 1955. The performance was taped by Vanguard Records and was eventually released as an LP, kicking off a second career for the Weavers as the urban folk revival they helped start began to take form. The entire concert is presented here, and it's an ideal way to hear the Weavers in their natural habitat, free of orchestral overdubs and other sweetening techniques. Featured are lovely and stirring versions of "Goodnight Irene," a wonderfully natural sounding "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine," "Wimoweh," Hays' "Lonesome Traveller" and a striking and powerful version of "Follow the Drinking Gourd." That a group so ultimately American should have been painted by the politics of the times as so dangerously un-American and therefore unfit for mass public consumption is a telling tale of knee jerk jingoism. The Weavers were never really scary, just earnest as hell and sure of where they stood. They were also very special performers with a knack for easing beautiful folk melodies onto the pop charts. This concert features them at their best, stripped down to just banjo, guitar and those lovely soaring vocals. ~ Steve Leggett, Rovi
Track samples provided courtesy of iTunes
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