Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Weavers

  • Best of the Vanguard Years [Vanguard, 2001] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Best of the Vanguard Years [Vanguard, 2001]
The Weavers brought Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly to the agora. They're where Jimmie Rodgers II learned "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine," where the Tokens learned "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," where Peter, Paul & Mary learned "If I Had a Hammer," where the Sandpipers learned "Guantanamera," where the Beach Boys learned "Sloop John B." True, Tennessee Ernie Ford didn't need them for "Sixteen Tons" nor Lonnie Donegan for "Rock Island Line"; true, p.c. sentimentality was their stock in trade; true, female principle Ronnie Gilbert had heard too much Odetta and designated guitarist Fred Hellerman had heard too much Theodore Bikel. But Gilbert was a vital force anyway, and Arkansas bass man Lee Hays was as charismatic as Pete Seeger himself when they let him out. The Weavers' Vanguard years followed their icky pop run with Gordon Jenkins at Decca. Their radio viability kaput courtesy of Joe McCarthy, they made their living on a folk circuit they created, and their recordings from the period reflect that enforced simplicity to the songs' benefit. In deep hindsight, I find their re-recorded greatest hits no less energetic and enjoyable than the Byrds'. Starting but not ending with Seeger, they had something. B+