Review : Woody Guthrie - Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection
PopmattersJuly 14, 2012 marks the hundredth anniversary of Woody Guthrie’s birth—a date that seems remarkable not because it’s so distant, but because it’s so recent. Others born that year include John Cheever, Julia Child, and Michelangelo Antonioni, all artists whose work helped define a decade as recent as the 1960s. But Guthrie’s work is tied eternally to the Depression and Dust Bowl of the 1930s. That generational disconnect speaks both to Guthrie’s early success—he was still in his 20s when he wrote “This Land Is Your Land” and most of the other songs for which he is remembered—and also to his early demise: he was only 44 years old when he was committed, in 1956, to the first of a series of hospitals where he was treated for the Huntington’s disease that would finally kill him in 1967. *...full text
PopdoseAs habitual readers of this space are already aware, I’m celebrating Woody Guthrie’s centennial by helping put together a tribute album dedicated to raising funds for the Woody Guthrie Foundation, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I’m a fan, and my review of Smithsonian Folkways’ anniversary box, Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection, is pretty much a formality.
So I’ll keep this somewhat brief. But it bears repeating, again, that Guthrie is one of our country’s most valuable musical treasures, and even if he’s been frozen in Dust Bowl sepia in our national memory, his songs are thoroughly, brilliantly alive — from populist screeds to humorous ditties, his words and music haven’t lost an ounce of their essential truth.
They also sound pretty great, thanks to the outstanding work performed by the small army of engineers listed in the credits (including renowned mastering ninja Joe Gastwirt); you’ll hear a fair amount of the fidelity issues you’d expect from source recordings this old, but just as often, Guthrie sounds like he could be sitting next to you. Which is pretty amazing — and also exactly what we’ve been trained to expect from an archival release in 2012.
Guthrie has been compiled and repackaged on multiple occasions, of course, and Woody at 100 isn’t the most comprehensive in terms of song selection — that honor goes to the sprawling Asch Recordings series, which outweighs this box by about 40 tracks — but it’s certainly the most handsome, with three discs and a 148-page booklet bound in a hefty hardcover package. It boasts lengthy biographical essays, dozens of Guthrie drawings, reproductions of his handwritten lyrics, suggestions for further reading, and so much more. It’s flawlessly absorbing....full text
AllmusicWoody Guthrie defined an era and culture in transition in his Dust Bowl ballads, his outlaw tales, his work and labor songs, antiwar songs, children's songs, political songs, and a host of love songs and songs that touched on philosophy, geography, and the hard work of living day to day in an emerging industrial world. He was kind of a maverick troubadour beat journalist, writing and drawing constantly, and new poems, writings, drawings, and even previously unknown songs and recordings have kept turning up even a decade into the 21st century. Smithsonian Folkways, to honor the centennial year of Guthrie's birth in 2012, has issued this three-disc set of Guthrie's songs housed in a beautiful 150-page hard-cover coffee-table book full of essays, letters, text, photos, drawings, and other Guthrie ephemera, including rare, previously unreleased recordings of Guthrie's earliest material, made in 1937 when he was working for a radio station in Los Angeles. Guthrie was not a simple man, and he was driven by energies and demons that often even he didn't understand, but he persisted, pushing himself across every possible creative medium of the times, and his life's work, which begins with his songs (but covers so much more, including an iconic autobiography that was later turned into a movie), made him into one of the most important and vital American artists of the 20th century. That story is presented here in this wonderful set....full text
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