WOODY GUTHRIE - American Radical Patriot (2013) [6CD] & Pastures Of Plenty: The Best Of (2004)
Throughout his career Woody Guthrie made no excuses or apologies for his left-wing political leanings. But what is surprising is that some of his best work was done for the US government. Woody Guthrie - American Radical Patriot contains all the music he created for the Library of Congress, Bonneville Power Administration, "government recordings" he made during world war two, and V.D. recordings made for the United States Public Health Service.
Produced by Bill Knowlin at Rounder Records and The Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives Woody Guthrie - American Radical Patriot includes six CDs, one DVD, and one 78 rpm record containing Bob Dylan's rendition of "VD City." The first four CDs are a complete catalog of Woody's Library of Congress recordings, the fifth and sixth CD have his PBA, war-effort, and VD songs, and the DVD contains a documentary film, made in 1999 at the University of Oregon called "Roll On Columbia" about Woody's BPA songs.
Some may argue that these 26 songs aren't Woody Guthrie's "best" songs, but they certainly capture the breadth of the man's musical vision. They will also remind listeners of the debt Bob Dylan owed to him. Probably remembered most for his song "This Land is Your Land," Guthrie was not always so sanguine about America. More characteristic are feelings of anger, sadness, and a kind of grim humor. There are timeless songs: "House of the Rising Sun" and "So Long, It's Been Good to Know You." But most of the songs on this CD recall the bleak days of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. The bleakest in the collection is surely "Dust Pneumonia Blues." The 1930s are also remembered with tributes to "Grand Coulee Dam" and "Pretty Boy Floyd." Taken together, these songs are the broken-down voice for a generation of poor, jobless, and uprooted, the people Steinbeck celebrated in "Grapes of Wrath." Listening to this CD, you are reminded of how seldom a voice like Guthrie's has made itself heard in America. This is a collection of songs well worth a long and thoughtful listen.
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