Woody Guthrie Rediscovered
It isn’t often that a legend gets the chance to be reborn, but listening to these four disks is like hearing Woody for the first time. His voice is clear on all of the tracks. The hiss and background noise that is so familiar to any Guthrie recording is virtually unnoticeable. My Dusty Road presents Woody Guthrie in an all new natural light that uncovers nuances never noticed before. But if the pristine recordings aren’t enough, the four disk box set unveils never released, and practically never before heard tracks, which for an artists as widely covered as Guthrie, is a very rare find.
In April of 1944 Woody Guthrie, along with Blind Sonny Terry and Cisco Houston recorded over 250 songs. These are the songs on these disks. These are the songs that lay buried for nearly 60 years. Some of the songs are informal, some are rehearsed, and all of them transport you to an earlier era.
The first disk is a collection of Woody’s greatest hits including “This Land is Your Land,” “Going Down the Road,” and “Hard Traveling.” And although some songs, like “This Land is Your Land,” is played traditionally with Guthrie accompanying himself on the guitar, he also picks up the mandolin, let’s Cisco take the lead, and is never afraid to let Sonny blow that harp.
The songs on this disk cover the dust bowl and the depression. They hit on legends like Pretty Boy Floyd, and the Reuben James. Guthrie also demonstrates his prowess at the talking blues, a technique that is musically sparse, and lyrically poignant.
The second disk concentrates on Woody’s ability to document folk songs. Woody was an encyclopedia of songs. He plays here, traditional songs that he heard on old 78’s. He plays songs from the Carter family. He plays songs that he learned from his mother Nora, and from George, the shoeshine in Pampa.
This disk demonstrates Woody’s vast knowledge of folk music and uncanny ability to tell stories through song. On “Buffalo Skinners,” a dramatic ballad that sings like a novel, Woody mournfully works his way through accompanied only by his guitar, to tell the sad tale of the American Indian and the lonesome great plain Cowboy.
Woody The Agitator, the third disc in the set concentrates on Woody’s ability to write protest songs. Woody rallied for workers rights, the equality of African Americans, and helped stage strikes and organize unions. He wrote songs like “I’m Gonna Join That One Big Union,” “Hangknot Slipknot,” and “Tear the Fascist Down.” The last of which is a virtually unheard song about the second world war.
Woody Guthrie is as influential as a singer can be. Without him there’d be no Cash, no Prine, no Dylan. He was a cowboy troubadour, and a poet balladeer. He represents an almanac of work, a library of songs that documents the past, and inspires the future. My Dusty Road presents a rich history of early America, that can, of course, be hummed along too.