Band Members: Woody Guthrie, Vox, Guitar, Harp/Various Friends & Compatriots, Over A Dozen Instruments
Track Listing: See www.rounder.com For Complete List
Growing up in the late ‘60’s/early ‘70’s, it was impossible NOT to be aware of Woody Guthrie- we started every morning before class with The Pledge of Allegiance, a prayer, and a rousing rendition of “This Land Is My Land.” Of course, by the time we’d hit high school, “The Red Scare” was over, no town with sidewalks had schools that recited “The Pledge…” and prayer had been banned in schools across America.
This compilation kicks off with Woody’s Greatest Hits, and the original, restored version of that anthem containing the banned verse: “There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me/Sign was painted, it said private property/But on the back side it didn’t say Nothing/That side was made for you and me/In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people/By the relief office I seen my people; As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking, is this land for you and me?…” Funny how time and the ommission of jyst a few words can give a song a whole different meaning, ain’t it? Well, here it is, complete and just as Guthrie meant it to be heard- remember, if it’s this easy to erase a classic from an AMERICAN somgwriter, it’s not too far of a leap to figure some future, power-mad monster just might rewrite the nation’s schoolbooks and convince the youth of tomorrow that The Holocaust never happened- such atrocities are taking place in institutions of learning world-wide as you read this. Don’t just sit idly aside and let it happen!
One of the most invaluable and educational aspects of this particular Guthrie retrospective (besides the fascinating tale of how these recordings were discovered) is that producers Scott Billington, Michael Creamer, and Bill Knowlin- along with offical biographer Ed Cray- take a tech-heavy, pro-geared studio tale and combine their individual talents to make it not only understandable but downright fascinating to the lay-person.
This box set may start out with Guthrie’s best-known anthem, but also includes tracks that deal with the wonders and terrors of the Modern Age (The watery-grave dirge “The Sinking Of The Reuben James,” the aeroplane fascination of “My Daddy (Flies A Ship In The Sky”) and “Grand Coulee Dam.” Another treat is hearing the “oiginal” versions of folk standards later brought back to popularity by such disparate artists as Wilco and Billy Bragg,The Byrds, Blue Mountain and previously unheard gems like “Bad Repetation.” (sic)
Disc two, Woody’s Roots, does a fine job of peeling back the varied and complex layers of a wide cross-section of the cracker-barrel gems, Sunday-Go-To-Meetin’ Standards, and Saturday night tipplers that influenced a curious, on-the-edge-of-puberty Woodrow Wilson Guthrie (what a moniker for a natural-born poltical watchdog/musician, huh?) as a youngster.
Disc three, Woody The Agitator, does, indeed, contain a plethora of Guthrie’s most famous rabble-rousers, including “I’m Gonna Join That One Big Union…” “Hangknot, Slipknot,” the gruesome “The Kudlow Massacre,” and “Union Burying Ground,” but also showcases Woody’s pure, unwavering patriotism (after all, no matter what his detractors said about him, he had to have held this country in mighty high regard to give up his privacy, his professional career, and the very safety of his family and himself in order to try bringing attention to a primitive version of the “Big Brother Is Watching” society we now live in. Nowhere is Guthrie’s adamant hatred of and soul-deep distaste for Hitler and his evil philosophy more apparent than in the previously-unreleased thrasher “”Tear The Fascists Down,” and “Sally Don’t You Grieve,” or his eqally righteous disgust for America’s similar pracice of enslaving Africa-Americans than in “Harriet Tubman’s Ballads Pts. 1 &2.”
This wondrous slice of genuine American history winds down with the good-timey side of Guthrie, as he laid down hootenanny-style jumpers, jivers, and pick-’n’-grin numbers with old chums axeman (and Merchant Marine shipmate) Cisco Houston and harp-meister Sonny Terry.
During a marathon recording session in 1944 for Stinson Records, the hard-livin’trio slammed, howled, blew, picked, and leered (“Do You Ever Think Of Me?” is the original version of the sexy, booty-call classic “At My Window Sad And Lonely,” which Jeff Tweedy and Billy Bragg brought to the ears of discerning fans everywhere on 1998’s Mermaid Avenue, recorded in Ireland. This final disc, Woody, Cisco And Sonny, contains no less than fifteen romantic, carousing, and downright ass-kickin’ pickers such as the previously-unreleased treasures “Brown’s Ferry Blues,” “Guitar Rag,” and “Sonny’s Flight.” A one-of-a-kind, MUST-HAVE piece of genuine Americana that no music collection should be without. Surf to www.rounder.com for more info!