Culture & Criticism Since 2003
The Appleseed Recordings label is synonymous with the history of folk and roots music, as the imprint has dedicated itself to exposing these genres to a new audience through original and archival recordings for over 20 years. In turn, Roots & Branches casts a splendid 21st anniversary spotlight on this small Pennsylvania label,with some of the biggest names in folk and rock championing the cause. This 3-CD record features a staggering 57 cuts, and there’s something here for every kind of ear, without a throw-away track in the lot. Appleseed founder and president, Jim Musselman (who used to work as a lawyer with none other than Ralph Nader) has come up with a compelling and appropriate format to celebrate Appleseed’s 21st birthday: Each of the three discs highlights a separate aspect of the Appleseed mission. Disc one (“Let The Truth Be Told”) is about political consciousness (racism, gun violence, homelessness, immigration – with Bruce Springsteen’s previously unreleased version of “If I Had A Hammer” paying its respects to Bob Dylan, John Hammond, Pete Seeger, Allen Ginsberg and all the rest of the voices who made the E Street Band possible. Disc 2 (“The Wisdom Keepers”) celebrates the singer-songwriter (never more beautifully than via the wanton ache of the late John Stewart’s “The Wedding Song”). While Disc 3 (“Keeping The Songs Alive”) is all about the reason Appleseed was born – paying homage to the “roots and branches” of Folk and World Music (Donovan’s previously unreleased “Wild Mountain Thyme” is the gem on this disc – this song is a thing of beauty to behold and worth the price of this record alone). Other can’t miss tracks include The Kennedy’s “Give Me Back My Country” and Rambling Jack Elliott’s “Roving Gambler.” It’s 50 years and counting since the 1960s when Dylan stormed the Village. But the relevance of the music that these poets and minstrels created has not yet waned. Roots & Branches from Appleseed Recordings provides the living testament to the reason behind the why.