I Wonder As I Wander (Mod)
Review Text John Jacob Niles is one of the forgotten folksingers who helped preserve and introduce traditional folk music to others before the Great Folk Scare broke in the late '50s. The songs included on Tradition Years: I Wonder as I Wander, in fact, were recorded on the eve of the revival. Niles is in good voice, but one only has to listen to "Waken, Little Sheperd" to understand why posterity has passed him by: his simple dulcimer accompaniment would satisfy even the most rabid folk purist's idea of tradition, but Niles' high alto is another matter. To put it in the worst way, Niles' singing voice is pretty, falling more in the tradition of classical vocals. His version of "John Henry," then, sounds nothing like Pete Seeger's, and it's easy enough to picture Niles performing the song in a recital before well-dressed patrons. Still, folk fans should realize that while Niles' style hasn't aged well, listeners really loved his interpretations at the time. He also reminds listeners today that there were always a number of ways of covering folk tradition. Tradition Years: I Wonder as I Wander will strike many as an oddity from yesteryear, but it represents the careful work of a diligent collector and a fine folk interpreter. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.