American Favorite Ballads, Vol. 1-5

If Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music was the folk revival's bible, these recordings — 139 songs from the Fifties and early Sixties — read like its dictionary, from the obscure (the amusing "My Sweetheart Is a Mule in the Mines") to the familiar ("Black Girl," covered by Nirvana as "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?") to the ingrained ("Oh, Susanna"). Seeger, who turned 90 this year, invests each tune with his cheeky spirit. Many have personalized this stuff, Bruce Springsteen most recently. But Seeger steps aside and lets the songs shine.

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