Sowing the Seeds: The 10th Anniversary
First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2008, Volume 15, #4
Written by John Metzger
Wed April 2, 2008, 06:45 AM CDT
Music can be a powerful force. It can tear down walls and bring people together, uniting countries and cultures while paving the way for global unification, and it can illuminate the grievous wrongs of the world by providing a voice to those who need it most. Perhaps, no other record label understands this concept quite as well as Appleseed. Founded in 1997 by Jim Musselman, an attorney who once worked alongside Ralph Nader, the company quietly has issued 87 folk-oriented endeavors that employ a single-minded approach of fighting for justice and peace through nonviolent means. It subsequently has built a sturdy reputation for itself, and in doing so, it has attracted the attention of an array of recognizable artists — Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, and Roger McGuinn, among them — for whom social activism has long been a way of life. Regardless, Appleseed has never wavered from its agenda nor has it chosen financial solvency over doing what was right. Although the albums it has released sometimes have suffered for this decision, there is no faulting the independent outfit’s lofty ambitions or its noble objectives.
In celebration of its decade-long journey, Appleseed has issued Sowing the Seeds: The 10th Anniversary, a 37-track compilation that provides an astoundingly good overview of its output. Considering that Pete Seeger has been the company’s primary source of inspiration, the set also serves as a tribute to his legacy. Fittingly, he introduces the collection with a spoken word recitation that essentially outlines Appleseed’s mission, and thereafter, he turns up frequently to poke and prod at conventional wisdom and make the case that speaking one’s mind is more patriotic than flying a flag.
The music on Sowing the Seeds: The 10th Anniversary, which includes nine new recordings, is spread across two discs, each of which is bound together by its own theme. The first half of the set is entitled "And Justice for All," and not surprisingly it addresses issues such as the plight of the working class, the degradation of environment, and the death penalty. Mostly, however, it deals with the war on terror in an effective, fair, and balanced fashion. In fact, the opening sequence of songs on the endeavor form a mini-suite of sorts that undeniably is the collection’s most moving passage. Ani DiFranco’s interpretation of Seeger’s Waist Deep in the Big Muddy and Tim Robbins’ surreal adaptation of All My Children of the Sun, another Seeger-penned tune, both paint horrifying and chilling depictions of war. Abutting them is Tom Paxton’s The Bravest, a memorial to those who lost their lives in the destruction of the World Trade Center, and Lizzie West’s 19 Miles to Baghdad, a mournful reflection upon America’s response to the tragedy.
The latter half of Sowing the Seeds: The 10th Anniversary has been dubbed "Love, Hope and Appleseed," and much as its subtitle suggests, it exudes a more optimistic outlook. Full of grace and beauty, the music ranges from the pensive radiance of Bruce Cockburn’s rendition of Turn! Turn! Turn! to the cosmic seduction of Donovan’s Yin My Yang and from the haunted yearning of Tim Eriksen’s Leave Your Light On to Ramblin’ Jack Elliott’s luminescent take on Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright. Although this portion of the program doesn’t quite coalesce as well as the first disc in the set, its contrasting mood helps to keep the endeavor on even ground. Overall, Sowing the Seeds: The 10th Anniversary tells the remarkable story of a dream come true, and it lays the groundwork for another decade that is filled with exactly the sort of positive social activism that the world so desperately needs. ½
Of Further Interest...
Sowing the Seeds: The 10th Anniversary is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box