Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
Folk, Traditional Country, Old-Timey

Album Review

This is one of Mike Seeger's most fully realized theme projects, subtitled "Songs of the Industrialization of the South." More simply, this could be described as a collection of protest songs, many of them dwelling on the familiar horrors of working in situations such as factories and coal mines. That the upper-class hands of Seeger were never directly scarred by such trouble should make no more of a problem for a listener than Mick Jagger claiming that he "can't get no satisfaction" when everyone knows he is getting plenty. This is not Seeger telling his life story; it is work of an archival nature and as such is thoroughly researched, complete with a long booklet full of historical details, lyrics, and other relevant information. Most important are the songs that Seeger came up with, which include not only traditional numbers but works by artists such as David McCarn and Dorsey Dixon, both men who struck a chord with the public by recording protest songs in the '30s. In terms of the musical performances it is a pity that Seeger didn't revisit this theme and some of this material in recordings 20 years later, when his chops were harder and his performance style more assured. His fiddle playing in particular picked up a lot of steam since these mid-'60s recordings, here sounding sometimes thin and reluctant of timing. He is also featured on banjo, guitar, harmonica, and a touch of unaccompanied singing. Tracy Schwarz, his playing partner from the second version of the New Lost City Ramblers, shows up on a few of the tracks.
Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Factory Girl
  2. Coal Creek Troubles
  3. Edward Lewis
  4. Come All You Coal Miners
  5. The Miner's Blues
  6. Harlan County Blues
  7. Cotton Mill Blues
  8. The Reckless Motor Man
  9. The New Market Wreck
  10. Cotton Mill Colic
  11. The Virginian Strike of '23
  12. Roane County Strike at Harriman, Tennessee
  13. The Hard Working Miner
  14. Hard Times in These Mines
  15. Spinning Room Blues
  16. The Death of John Henry
  17. Death of John Henry
purchase full album