There's hardly a better example of a happy marriage between old and new than Roger McGuinn's Folk Den.
Over the past decade, this former Byrd, technology geek and
Orlando resident has been archiving traditional folk songs on his Web
site, mcguinn.com. At the interactive Folk Den, musicians and
historians could find a captivating time capsule of storytelling and
music, complete with free downloads, lyrics, chords and a note from
To mark the project's first 10 years, McGuinn has compiled 100 of
his favorite songs into a four-disc package available for purchase at
his Web site, amazon.com and cdbaby.com.
It's a lovely extension of McGuinn's 2001 album Treasures from the
Folk Den and a far better-sounding collection on a purely audio level
than 2004's Limited Edition.
For folk purists, McGuinn's loving treatment of songs such as
"Mighty Day'' and "Dink's Song,'' both on Disc 1, is a treasure indeed.
The former is a topical song about the Galveston Flood of 1900 that
rings truer than ever more than 100 years later in the wake of Katrina.
McGuinn's liner notes are plainspoken, just like the tale itself:
"A strong hurricane can do as much damage as a nuclear bomb,'' he
writes, "and should be respected.''
"Dink's Song,'' meanwhile, is a duet with Pete Seeger on a
traditional song recently covered in rougher fashion by a young Bob
Dylan on the No Direction Home documentary soundtrack. The harmonies
are far sweeter here, especially when augmented by McGuinn's ringing
McGuinn's signature Rickenbacker guitar provides a chiming
accompaniment for "Silver Dagger,'' which opens the second disc. It's a
twist on the version of the song made popular by Joan Baez in the
1960s, with McGuinn changing the gender of the main character to suit
his angle on the story.
The folk tradition is about adaptation, and it's not surprising
that these old songs find new life in the shadow of current events. So
it is that "Down by the Riverside,'' with its admonition that "I ain't
gonna study war no more,'' becomes a gentle anti-war anthem.
Whether it's wrapped around topical songs, spirituals or tall
tales, McGuinn's voice on the Folk Den Project is a significant and
engaging one in the preservation of this important music.