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The Library of Congress Recordings: Woody Guthrie

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Album Review

Not so much an album as an historical aural document, this nearly three-hour, three-CD set chronicles three days of interviews and songs featuring a 27-year-old Woody Guthrie on March 21, 22, and 27, 1940. Alan Lomax and his wife, Elizabeth, take Guthrie through his autobiography and his reflections on the Dust Bowl, and he proves a witty, rustic raconteur who is even more impressive when he picks up the guitar and performs such original songs as "So Long, It's Been Good to Know You," "Talking Dust Bowl Blues," "Do-Re-Mi," and "Pretty Boy Floyd," as well as traditional material. Guthrie did not make his first studio recordings until later in 1940, but his repertoire and performance style were clearly long-established by this time. It is easy to hear why he was such a revelation to the folk world of the '40s, especially because his influence has been so pervasive: much of the next 20 years in folk music derives from these sessions, even though they were not commercially released until 1964 as a box set on Elektra Records. Rounder reissued the album on LP in the 1988 and on CD in the 1997.


Born: 14 July 1912 in Okemah, OK

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s

Woody Guthrie was the most important American folk music artist of the first half of the 20th century, in part because he turned out to be such a major influence on the popular music of the second half of the 20th century, a period when he himself was largely inactive. His greatest significance lies in his songwriting, beginning with the standard "This Land Is Your Land" and including such much-covered works as "Deportee," "Do Re Mi," "Grand Coulee Dam," "Hard, Ain't It Hard," "Hard Travelin'," "I...
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