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Folkways: The Original Vision

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Album Review

Folkways: The Original Vision was released in 1988 as a complement to the Columbia album Folkways: A Vision Shared (which featured modern performers doing interpretations of Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie songs), which in turn was done to help provide funds for the Smithsonian Institution to incorporate the Folkways Record Company into its archives. Folkways: The Original Vision thus became the debut release on the new Smithsonian Folkways record imprint. This expanded version adds six more tracks and greatly extends the liner notes, making what was an impressive introduction to Guthrie and Leadbelly an even more impressive one. Both of these men had a detailed knowledge of American folk music, but what places them at the edge of modern folk is how both took melodies and motifs from the past and recast them with new lyrics and arrangements, personalizing their songs to particular needs while still retaining the folk lineage of the original tunes. The songs included here (all drawn from Moses Asch's Asch, Disc, and Folkways imprints) will be familiar to most Americans in one version or another, but there are some surprises, like Leadbelly's "4, 5, and 9," which has guitarists Leadbelly and Brownie McGhee and harmonica player Sonny Terry join in a loose blues jam with a jazz rhythm section of Pops Foster on bass and Willie "The Lion" Smith on piano, and the set closer, "We Shall Be Free," which features Leadbelly and Guthrie together, along with Terry again and Cisco Houston, improvising lyrics to a version of Chris Bouchillon's "Talking Blues," originally recorded in the 1920s. Other highlights include Leadbelly's "Gallis Pole" (a furious and dynamic version of "The Maid Freed from the Gallows") and Guthrie's "Hobo's Lullaby" (which was actually written by Goebel Reeves, the so-called "Texas Drifter"). This expanded edition of The Original Vision, Rovi

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Born: July 14, 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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