Sunday, December 2, 2012

Woody Guthrie - Library Of Congress Recordings (Rounder - 1041/3)

Woody Guthrie is an interesting character altogether apart from being the idol of many musicians that we and our fathers have been fans of including Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger. He is originally a Folk musician as well as an improviser, though during the development of his career, he sang more and more Blues songs. I should also note that he is certainly not a Country singer as that may be sometimes mixed up with Folk. Another interesting aspect of Guthrie is that he was not a rebuplican. More than that, he was an unofficial communist as he was never listed in any party or groups, but his views were clearly in that line. One reason may have been that he grew up in a well integrated town where a quarter of the population was Indians, the other quarter African Americans and rest Whites. Another aspect could be the Great Depression to which he grew into.

No matter his political leanings, one thing that we can be sure of is that he was one hell of a musician. This box set is also a very good proof of that. Most of his recordings are in the archives of Library Of Congress, hence this box set represents most of the best live recordings he has done. Additionally, before and after each song he plays live, he explains the music, his story and his views which makes the records all the more beautiful while listening. We learn that his mother died in an asylum and his father somehow caught fire after losing all his money and ranch (Guthrie thinks his father set himself on fire incidentally). He even explains his experience with a certain dust storm which happened in April 14th, 1935 which eventually turned up into a song named "Dust Storm Disaster".

The tracks which have been enlightening for me were "Railroad Blues", a story about whiskey "Rye Whiskey", "Do-Re-Mi", a self explanatory post Great Depression song called "I Ain't Got No Home", etc.  The main theme of the box set is the post Great Depression era and the dust storms that came with it. During the interviews you hear a lot about the Dust Bowl and it's effect on people, how people migrated from the Great Plains to states like California and how they lived there. Songs are actually about them as well. Due to wrong farming procedures  and the drought that came with it, the whole Great Plains were covered with dust and when came the prevailing winds, they took up the dust to create dust storms which are famous of that era. These storms caused sicknesses (Hence the song "Dust Pneumonia") and changed lives drastically. For the people interested in this era which also gave birth to John Steinbeck's famous "Grapes Of Wrath", you can watch the TV series "Surviving The Dust Bowl" from PBS's website here.

Overall I have to say that this is quite a sincere performance I am listening. It was recorded in 1940 and I have serious thoughts that this was a radio show. Unfortunately I have the newer version of this box set. The original was released by Library Of Congress records back in 1964 while this one is a repress from 1988 by Rounder records. I also have to say that everything about the release is the same with the previous one. No remastering etc, so that is a good thing. The whole box set left me stunned with the interviews, the songs and the stories behind them. It is a must for any music and sociology lover.

To buy this box set:

@ Ebay
@ Discogs

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