Slipcue.Com Celtic & UK Folk Guide

This is a (in)complete(ish) discography of the recorded work of British folk legend Ewan MacColl, based on a list provided by his longtime partner, Peggy Seeger, whose work is also listed here. Many thanks to Ms. Seeger for contacting me to remark on the "curious selection" of their records posted on Slipcue's artist profile page, and for making her own discography available. The list she sent was last updated in 1999; doubtless a reissue or two has surfaced since then. Her discography was organized according to record label, mine is sorted by release date... her method probably makes more sense, but I am a victim of linear thinking... so there you have it... Anyway, here's a quick look at their work.

Best-Of Collections

Ewan MacColl "The Ewan MacColl Collection" (Green Linnet, 1991)
A strong best-of which covers a lot of ground, and includes a rendition of "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face". Truthfully, I found this disc to be a little dry, but lots of my friends love it. It's a good introduction, especially considering how many of his older records are now out of print and difficult to track down.

Ewan MacColl "Black And White: The Definitive Collection" (Cooking Vinyl, 1996)

Peggy Seeger "The Folkways Years, 1955-1992: Songs Of Love And Politics" (Smithsonian Folkways, 1992)

Peggy Seeger & Mike Seeger "American Folk Songs For Children" (Smithsonian Folkways, 1995)

Peggy Seeger "An Odd Collection" (Rounder, 1996)
A great set by Peggy Seeger, whose sprightly sense of humor was always a welcome counterbalance to Ewan MacColl's somewhat dour sensibilities. Here she relaxes and cracks smile after smile, as she makes the case for her leftie world view with numerous deft satirical dabs. This collection is "odd" in that most of the songs hadn't been recorded before; although the handful that had are among her most powerful. The older tunes include "Emily," a haunting song about domestic violence, and "Housewife's Alphabet," another '70s tune that sets the tone for much of the album. The newer songs include labor ballads and elegies to MacColl and other folkie heavyweights, such as Ralph Rinzler, who is remembered in "Lost Friend." Most of the songs have a feminist emphasis, which was Seeger's forte. She really has a knack for making scathing social observations in a gentle, ingratiating manner; it's hard to argue with someone who makes you laugh so hard you start to cry. A pity they couldn't include her classic "I Was Gonna Be An Engineer" on this set, it would have fit right in! All in all, though, this is a great record. If you enjoy political folk music, or just plain good music, intelligently performed, then this disc is definitely recommended.

Peggy Seeger "Period Pieces: Women's Songs For Men And Women" (Ryko/Tradition, 1998)
Similarly, this collection of Seeger's feminist anthems, ballads and musings is a delightful record that packs more than a few hefty wallops. Many of these versions are re-recordings of songs originally from the 1970s... They aren't necessarily as musically perky or biting as the earlier versions, but you definitely get the point. My favorite songs on here are "Different, Therefore Equal," (which has long struck me as one of the best, most concise enunciations of the "diversity" ethos of the liberal-left), "Nine Month Blues," the mother-daughter dialog, "Different Tunes," and -- of course -- "I Was Gonna Be An Engineer," Seeger's great equal-pay classic. Since the old records seem to be long out of print, this is the disc that Seeger's fans have to get to check out some of her best political songwork.

Peggy Seeger & Irene Scott "Almost Commercially Viable" (Sliced Bread, 2000)

Peggy Seeger & Irene Scott "Love Will... Linger On" (Appleseed, 2000)
A nice set of classic romantic ballads and original songs, featuring both Seeger and Irene Scott, her partner in the folkie duo, No Spring Chickens. The album leads off with Ewan MacColl's immortal "First Time ever I Saw Your Face," which retains its full glory (as does Seeger's voice its full charm...) The full Seeger/MacColl clan seems to be chipping in on this one, including assist from album producer Callum MacColl, along with Kitty and Neill MacColl, on various tunes. Another favorite tune is the Scottish ballad, "My Joy Of You," which is compelling here, even with a fairly drippy piano arrangement.

Peggy Seeger "Heading For Home" (Appleseed, 2003)
A fine back-to-basics album, gathering songs that come from the Seeger family's deep songcatching reservoir, with Anglo-American classics such as "Omie Wise," "Jackie Rover" and "Henry Lee," along with a few tunes of more recent vintage, such as the title tune in which Seeger reflects on the passing of the seasons... It's a family effort, with Seeger's children, Neill, Callum and Kitty MacColl all joining her in an English country home that they temporarily converted into a recording studio; her brother Mike Seeger also adds some banjo plunkin' on a tune or two... All in all, a very nice little record... A folk purist's delight.

Peggy Seeger "Songs For October, 2004" (Self-Released, 2004)
The 2004 election was right around the corner, and this disc sounded like fun. It's a six-song one-off political quickie, tied to the November elections in the good old U. S. of A... (For more info, check out

Peggy Seeger & Mike Seeger "Fly Down Little Bird" (Appleseed, 2011)
(Produced by Mike Seeger, Peggy Seeger & Alexia Smith)

A plainspoken and touching collection of old, traditional folk music recorded by Peggy Seeger and her brother Mike, the younger brother and sister of the great Pete Seeger, and children of musicologist Charles Seeger. The Seegers shared a love of mountain music, and these barebones recordings -- the last sessions by the late Mike Seeger -- are particularly moving in their simplicity and in the palpable joy that Mike and Peggy took in singing the old songs and in performing together. If you enjoy old-style Southern and Appalachian music, particularly songs with odd topics and weird lyrical twists, then this album will be a true delight. It's a little heartbreaking that Mike Seeger is no longer with us, but the beauty and simplicity of these recordings underscores all the great work he did and the kooky magic of his musical passions. Highly recommended. (You can also check out my Mike Seeger discography for more of his work...)

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger Discography

Ewan MacColl & A.L. Lloyd "Haul on The Bowlin' v.1-2" (Stinson)
A.L. Lloyd was the grandfather figure of the '50s English folk revival, and these two records are among the finest collaborations between him and MacColl. While they're not as rowdy or ribald as sea shanties ought to be, it's still great material. Reissued, I believe, in edited form on Ryko's Tradition series.

Ewan MacColl & A.L. Lloyd "Fourpence A Day" (Stinson, 1950s)

Ewan MacColl & A.L. Lloyd "The English and Scottish Popular Ballads v.1-5" (Riverside, 1956)

Various Artists "SING CHRISTMAS AND THE TURN OF THE YEAR" (Rounder, 2000)
Fans of uber-folklorist Alan Lomax will be floored by this holiday-oriented tour de force, an amazing live BBC broadcast from Christmas Day, 1957, which gathered the talents of revered revivalists such as A. L. Lloyd, Seamus Ennis, Cyril Tawney, and a young Shirley Collins, as well as numerous lesser-known performers. From studios in Belfast, Birmingham, London, Wales, Plymouth, Derbyshire and Scotland, they were all contributing live on the air to an elaborate Christmas pageant that included not only British and Celtic folk material (including plenty of pagan and protest music), but also the rockin' new skiffle style and a bit of calypso and African highlife music from Britain's immigrant communities. The tightly scripted program features narration by Lomax, who had spent the bulk of the '50s in the UK, hosting various folk programs on radio and TV, and who waxes eloquent about the social and mystical roots of Britain's Christmas traditions. Lomax was ahead of the curve in so many ways on this project, it's hard to know where to begin -- stylistically, technically, crossculturally -- this was an ambitious, professionally realized broadcast that gathered together the best of Britain's folk talent, and yet retained the charm of a grade school talent show. Ewan MacColl contributes several songs, including a leftie historical ballads tying the pagan spirit to England's rebel past; Peggy Seeger, however was unable to attend in person, as her reentry visa had been blocked, following a goodwill tour inside the Soviet Union. This album is fascinating as a work of art and an historical document, this is one of the jewels of Rounder's extensive program reissuing Lomax's vast recorded legacy. The songs and snippets whiz by too fast, but it's still a dazzling show!

Ewan MacColl "Barrack Room Ballads" (Topic, 1958)
Ewan MacColl "Bless 'Em All ...And Other British Army Songs" (Riverside)

Oh, those Brits are so great with words... so it's little surprise that during the wars the lads broke out their guitars, and wrote clever, biting songs to pass the time and relieve the pressure of barracks life. Two things make this a great album; first there's MacColl's lively, boisterously funny performance, second, there are the songs themselves, which are surprisingly and bluntly subversive. As far as I know, this isn't in print on CD, but it would be lovely if it were.

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "Classic Scots Ballads" (Tradition, 1960)

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "New Briton Gazette, v.1" (Folkways, 1960)

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "New Briton Gazette, v.2" (Folkways, 1962)

Ewan MacColl/Various Artists "Blow, Boys Blow" (Tradition, 1960)
Maritime songs sung by Ian Campbell, Harry H. Corbett, Louis Killen, Sam Larner, A.L. Lloyd, Ewan MacColl, and Cyril Tawney...

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "Bothy Ballads Of Scotland" (Folkways, 1961)

Ewan MacColl & A.L. Lloyd "Whaler Out Of New Bedford... And Other Songs Of The Whaling Era" (Tradition, 1962)

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "Broadside Ballads, v. 1 -- London: 1600-1700" (Folkways, 1962)

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "Broadside Ballads, v. 2 -- London: 1600-1700, Female Frollicks and Politicke" (Folkways, 1962)

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "On The Edge: A Radio Ballad About Teenagers In England And Scotland" (Topic, 1963)

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "Classic Scots Ballads" (Tradition, 1961/1997)
Low-key, but absolutely perfect set of Scottish ballads, including many songs like "The Banks Of The Nile" and "The False Lover Won Back" that crop up time and again in the Celt/Brit folk revival that followed. Even with the sparse instrumentation, at most her banjo and their voices in tandem, Seeger and MacColl imbue these tunes with all the rich historic and emotional resonance they deserve. A classic album that cast a long shadow on the Scottish folkies to come... recommended!

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "Scottish Drinking And Pipe Songs" (Legacy, 1984)

Ewan MacColl "Bundook Ballads" (1967)

Ewan MacColl "The Wanton Muse" (1968)

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "The Long Harvest v.1-10" (Argo, 1966-1968)
Traditional British and American ballads. Two additional volumes, Ballads Resident and Migrant and Second Crop (11 and 12), were recorded but remain unreleased.

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "The Paper Stage, v.1" (Argo, 1968) Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "The Paper Stage, v.2" (Argo, 1969)
Broadside adaptations of Elizabethan plays.

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "The Amorous Muse" (Argo, 1968)

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "The Angry Muse" (Argo, 1968)

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "The Wanton Muse" (Argo, 1968)

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "The World Of Peggy And Ewan, v.1" (Argo, 1969)

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "Living Folk" (Albatross, 1970)
Recorded live in Milan.

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "The World Of Peggy And Ewan, v.2" (Argo, 1971)

Ewan MacColl "Solo Flight" (Argo/Decca, 1972)
Stark but winsome tracks, featuring MacColl singing a brace of traditional tunes and modern social commentary. Although it's billed as a "solo" album, both Peggy Seeger and John Faulkner pitch in... The highlight may be "The Iron-Moulder's Wedding," with its resolutely earthy view of The Working Man and giddily goofy chorus (they threw nuts and bolts, instead of rice...)

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "Folkways Record Of Contemporary Songs" (Folkways, 1973)

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "Cold Snap" (Folkways, 1978)

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "Hot Blast" (Folkways, 1978)

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "Kilroy Doesn't Live Here Anymore" (Paredon, 1980)
Of all their scathing, hard Left records of the Thatcher era, this is the best, and the cleverest. Features the chilling drug abuse parable, "Miss Heroin," and -- best of all -- the slashingly funny anti-Thatcher doggerel of "In Praise Of Famous Men (And Women)." Highly recommended.

Ewan MacColl "Daddy, What Did You Do In The Strike?" (Blackthorne, 1984)

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger "Naming Names" (Cooking Vinyl, 1990)

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger/Various Artists "Folk On 2: EFDSS & 70th Birthday Concert" (BBC Worldwide/Cooking Vinyl, 1996)
This disc collects two BBC performances from the late 1980s, one a "symposium" recorded on the occasion of MacColl's 70th birthday. Several trad-folk heavyweights pitch in, such as Ian Campbell, Ray Fisher and Belle Stewart, as well as a gaggle of members of the MacColl clan, including Neill, Calum and Kitty MacColl, who sing in the chorus of the slightly torturous anti-apartheid operetta, "White Wind." This collection gives a nice cross-section of the family's thematic range, and a sens of how they presented themselves in concert. Worth tracking down if you're a fan, although I have to admit my attention wandered a bit while listening to this one...

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