I heard this guy for the first time on CBC this morning while I was driving around town on a list of errands that was taking me nowhere near my river. It was a wise decision by the producers to play at least part of this song at the top of the segment, before Mr. Seegers was interviewed, because even the small sample hooked me: Yes, I wanted to hear him talk about his life and music, but I could hardly wait to get home and hear the whole song. The interview revealed a disarmingly humble singer/songwriter whose kin crafts seem to have been instruments of survival in a life beset by homelessness, drugs, booze, and fractured love, much of that dark stuff happening in Nashville, Tennessee. There must be a lot of fucked-up down-and-outers in that city with voices that make you thankful you have ears, and a brain, and a heart because you'd think a voice like this would have been singled out long ago. In any case, Mr. Seegers appears to have a few bucks in his pocket now. Good for him -- and great for us. Or for me, at least, because once I got home and was able to listen to the whole song, my day got a whole lot better. Even the lyrics delight with a couple of striking images that I've never encountered before: a pair of baptized feet and a soul that's getting re-washed; I realize all souls break promises to themselves, and that they pick up a thick layer of grime and dust on their journeys (my own, I know, could certainly use a long, warm bath), but I've never heard of feet getting baptized or souls getting washed again.
It's a perfect country song, and a perfect blues song, too (don't forget to listen to the players, especially to the one on electric guitar). I plan to listen to "Going Down To The River" many times in the future. How am I supposed to resist a voice that can do what it does here, a voice that so flawlessly holds so much pain and regret and self-knowledge and hope in it?
For an extra and equal treat, here's Mr. Seeger performing the same song in a recording studio with a couple of Swedish country singers (I didn't know there were any country singers in Sweden, let alone ones as good as these two, but why not?): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjfbHiVpvrc