Roger McGuinn: The Folk Den Project 1995-2005 (5 stars out of 5)
This Byrd has grown: McGuinn's folk shines

Jim Abbott | Sentinel Pop Music Critic
Posted January 13, 2006

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Audio: Roger McGuinn - "Mighty Day"
Audio: Roger McGuinn - "Mighty Day" (Roger McGuinn: The Folk Den)
Jan 13, 2006

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, 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 McGuinn.

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, and

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 12-string guitar.

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.