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Woody Guthrie - The Asch Recordings

Woody Guthrie

The Asch Recordings

Woody Guthrie

Smithsonian Folkways 40112

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Woody Guthrie
Woody Guthrie
I can understand some people not liking classical music. Likewise jazz, or rap, or heavy metal. But I think that everybody would like the music of Woody Guthrie. His folk style has a universality that transcends cultures, education, nationalities and age-groups. Woody Guthrie wrote music that appeals in its deceptive simplicity and its underlying message. And he just happens to be the most influential musician of American popular music.

Woody Guthrie was born in Okemah, Oklahoma, an early oil boom town, in 1912. From an early age, he was a keen observer of the little things that make up daily life. His own early life was a series of tragedies. His treasured sister Clara died when he was young. His father suffered financial ruin, his mother became mentally ill and institutionalized (a condition that would later catch up with Woody), his hometown became a dustbowl and the Great Depression made paupers and refugees out of millions.

Woody found himself forever fleeing misfortune, and developed a lifelong taste for travelling. He walked, rode and hitchiked to California, where he found himself part of the unwelcome masses fleeing poverty. Many of his songs are from the point of view of the outsider and the traveller.

He supported himself writing and singing songs, the variety immensely wide. He is best-known for his social and protest songs, songs championing the plight of the underdog. He became involved with the trade union movement and strongly supported the United States' entering the second World War against Fascism.

His most famous song, This Land is Your Land is probably the most sung song in the United States. It has even been suggested as the new National Anthem and was actually written to counter the militant Star Spangled Banner. LYRICS TO THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND

But there is so much more to Woody Guthrie. He wrote two volumes of children's songs, Songs to Grow On, Nursery Days written for his own children. He wrote short comic pieces, cowboy songs (precursor to the Country and Western style) ballads, and poetry set to music, all born from his experience with people undergoing the worst hardships.

Moe Asch
Moe Asch
Moses (Moe) Asch was a collector of all things original and talented, whether or not it had commercial value. He recorded many folk musicians, Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly being the most successful. His record label Folkways (now part of Smithsonian Folkways) put Woody Guthrie into the living rooms of millions around the world. Asches studio in New York was always open the Guthrie, who would wander in unannounced and Asch would record whatever Guthrie had at the time. In time, the collaboration would produce almost 5 hours of music, now collected as the Asch recordings.

The Asch Recordings includes almost everything Guthrie ever wrote and sang, divided into four volumes (all of which can be bought individually:

Buy this CD at Buy this CD from Amazon.comTHE ASCH RECORDINGS VOLUME 1

The best of Woody Guthrie, featuring his most famous song, including a version with never before issued lyrics in its first ever recording.
Buy this CD at Buy this CD from Amazon.comTHE ASCH RECORDINGS VOLUME 2

This volume contains American folk songs standards, performed by Guthrie, but not all written by him. These are songs from his childhood that hugely influenced his style.
Buy this CD at Buy this CD from Amazon.comTHE ASCH RECORDINGS VOLUME 3

Written in the 1930's and 40's, this is a collection of Guthrie's topical social songs including such famous songs as Hard Travelin', Talking Columbia and Vigilante Man.
Buy this CD at Buy this CD from Amazon.comTHE ASCH RECORDINGS VOLUME 3

The final instalment includes both Guthrie originals and traditional songs linked by a western theme. Includes Billy the Kid, Pretty Boy Floyd and Red River Valley.
But if you really want to immerse yourself in Woody Guthrie, the entire boxed set is a treasure and better value too. This is the music that changed the course of American popular music. It is impossible to imagine Bob Dylan and the entire 60's folk revival without Woody Guthrie. Country and Western owes much to Guthrie. More recently, Billy Bragg has released a Guthrie tribute CD.

This set is not all easy listening. Some of the recordings are of poor quality, with audible hiss and scratches. And almost five hours of Woody Guthrie is a little too much to digest in one sitting. But in shorter sittings, there is a simple innocence, a dry humour and a deceptive emotional complexity that makes this music addictively appealing.

The handsome boxed set includes the four CDs, each with a 32 page booklet containing a biography of Guthrie, archival photographs and detailed notes on each track explaining the historical context of each song. Its fascinating stuff.

On a sad note, Woody Guthrie died from a devastating illness called Huntington's Chorea, inherited from his mother, an illness that slowly destroys muscle control and mental functioning. Those affected usually die in their 50's after years of suffering.

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Track Listing

Woody Guthrie
The Asch Recordings

    Disc 1 - This Land is Your Land
  1. This Land Is Your Land
  2. Riding in My Car (Car Song)
  3. Ramblin' Round
  4. Talking Fishing Blues
  5. Philadelphia Lawyer
  6. Lindbergh
  7. Hobo's Lullaby
  8. Pastures of Plenty
  9. Grand Coulee Dam
  10. End of the Line
  11. New York Town
  12. Gypsy Davy
  13. Jesus Christ
  14. This Land Is Your Land
  15. Do-Re-Mi
  16. Jarama Valley
  17. Biggest Thing Man Has Ever Done
  18. Picture from Life's Other Side
  19. Jesse James
  20. Talking Hard Work
  21. When That Great Ship Went Down
  22. Hard, Ain't It Hard
  23. Going Down the Road Feeling Bad
  24. I Ain't Got Nobody
  25. Sinking of the Reuben James
  26. WhyOhWhy
  27. ThisLandIsYourLand(Reprise)

    Disc 2 - Mule Skinner Blues
  1. Mule Skinner Blues
  2. Wreck of the Old '97
  3. Sally Goodin'
  4. Little Black Train
  5. Who's Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet?
  6. Baltimore to Washington
  7. Rubber Dolly
  8. Years
  9. Sowing on the Mountain
  10. Bed on the Floor
  11. Take a Whiff on Me
  12. Step stone
  13. Put My Little Shoes Away
  14. Hen Cackle
  15. Poor Boy
  16. Stack-O-Lee
  17. Johnny Hart
  18. Worried Man Blues
  19. Danville Girl
  20. Gambling Man
  21. Rye Straw
  22. Craw dad Song
  23. Ida Red
  24. Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy
  25. Train

    Disc 3 - Hard Travelin'
  1. Hard Travelin'
  2. Farmer-Labor Train
  3. Howdjadoo
  4. Ship in the Sky
  5. I Ain't Got No Home
  6. Mean Talking Blues
  7. Better World A-Comin'
  8. Miss Pavlichenko
  9. SoLong(It's Been Good to Know You)
  10. New Found Land
  11. Oregon Trail
  12. Vigilante Man
  13. 1913 Massacre
  14. Talking Columbia
  15. Two Good Men
  16. Sally Don't You Grieve
  17. Talking Sailor Blues
  18. What Are We Waiting On?
  19. Railroad Blues
  20. Ludlow Massacre
  21. Ladies Auxiliary
  22. Miner's Song
  23. When the Yanks Go Marching In
  24. Union Maid [Excerpt]
  25. Rubaiyat [Excerpt]
  26. Many and the Few
  27. Hanukkah Dance

    Disc 4 - Buffalo Skinners
  1. Ranger's Command
  2. Buffalo Skinners
  3. Billy the Kid
  4. Cowboy Waltz
  5. Pretty Boy Floyd
  6. Along in the Sun and theR ain
  7. Whoopie-Ti-Yi-Yo,Get Along Little Dogies
  8. Froggie Went A-Courtin'
  9. Buffalo Gals
  10. I Ride an Old Paint
  11. Dead or Alive (PoorLazarus)
  12. Slipknot(Hangknot,Slipknot)
  13. Cocaine Blues (BadLeeBrown)
  14. Go Tell Aunt Rhody
  15. Chisholm Trail
  16. Stewball
  17. Wild Cyclone
  18. Train Blues
  19. Red River Valley
  20. Fastest of Ponies
  21. Stewball
  22. SnowDeer
  23. When the Curfew Blows (CurfewBlow)
  24. Little Darling (At My Window Sad and Lonely)
  25. Blowing Down That Old Dusty Road (Going Down the Road Feelin' Bad)
  26. Return of Rocky Mountain Slim and Desert Rat Shorty

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