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Folk - Released July 10, 2012 | Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Reissue
Woody 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. ~ Steve Leggett
£4.79

Folk - Released November 19, 2015 | Folk-Up Records

£12.99

Folk - Released July 22, 2008 | RCA Camden

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Folk - Released December 23, 2014 | Documents

£19.98

Folk - Released August 17, 1999 | Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Booklet
Woody Guthrie's Asch Recordings, Vol. 1-4 is another shining example of Smithsonian/Folkways' ability to create a historically important document that is both fun and enriching. Combining four separate compilations (This Land Is Your Land: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 1, Muleskinner Blues: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 2, Hard Travelin': The Asch Recordings, Vol. 3, and Buffalo Skinners: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 4) into one box, Smithsonian/Folkways presents a fairly complete overview of Guthrie's career. The collection features deep forays into his union songs, political and social issue songs, cowboy and outlaw songs, and early country and frontier ballads, with each CD separated into specific themes. The liner notes are intelligently written but never dry, going through track by track, bringing to light Guthrie's warm contributions to American folksongs. In listening to the set as a whole, the only question left is "where is Guthrie's comedy album?" His biting humor on songs like "Talking Hard Work," "Ladies Auxiliary," "Howdjadoo," and "Mean Talking Blues" tell of a wry and witty side of the activist that would fit alongside his topical children's albums nicely. Each of these CDs are available individually, but purchasing the box set gives the listener a more well-rounded experience and makes more sense economically. ~ Zac Johnson
£3.19

Country - Released January 24, 2018 | Resurfaced Records

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Pop - Released May 8, 2019 | tradu Rec.

£22.49

Folk - Released November 6, 2015 | New Rounder

It's nearly impossible to fathom that recordings so alive and important sat untouched in a Brooklyn basement for six decades, but that's how the story of My Dusty Road begins. Long story short: an elderly woman had inherited a cache of some 2,000 metal disc recordings cut in the 1940s for Herbert Harris, owner of the Stinson Records label, and Moses Asch, who went on to found Folkways Records. Among them, most in pristine condition (some were scratched but the metal masters were otherwise shiny and new-looking), were roughly 150 sides made in April 1944 by one Woodrow Wilson Guthrie, first-class performances from his peak years. It should be noted up front that this is not a discovery of music that hasn't seen the light of day before -- only six of the 54 tracks that ended up on the four-CD box set are previously unreleased; the rest have been issued by Stinson (and on various reissues). My Dusty Road can, however, be considered a significant sonic upgrade. Some of the metal discs were damaged, but enough was salvageable -- and able to be cleaned up with modern technology -- that this collection (including six alternate versions Guthrie never released elsewhere) culled from that basement can now be considered a worthy new piece of the Guthrie canon. Divided into four thematic segments -- Woody's "Greatest" Hits, Woodys Roots, Woody the Agitator, and Woody, Cisco and Sonny (i.e., Guthrie and fellow folksingers Cisco Houston and Sonny Terry) -- the set is both familiar and fresh-sounding at once. Opening with "This Land Is Your Land," it becomes immediately noticeable throughout the first disc that, although there is still a certain amount of hiss and scratch present (these recordings did, after all, sit in a basement for 60 years), Guthrie's voice and guitar are brighter, more immediate. Two versions of "Going Down the Road," one a collaborative effort with Houston and Terry, the other with only Houston, are lively and poignant, and other staples such as "The Sinking of the Reuben James" and "Pretty Boy Floyd" feel more like intimate coffeehouse recordings than, as they did before, distant and flat. "Bad Repetation" (sic), the first of the never-heard songs, ends disc one, a clever, uptempo indictment of a male suitor's paying the price for his misbehavior. Of the songs on disc two, again many have become standards of the Guthrie and general folk song repertoire, interpreted by countless artists over the years: "Stewball," "Worried Man Blues," "John Henry," etc. Here they come alive as if a layer of grime has been wiped off the surface. Similarly, the topical songs that populate disc three and the collaborations on the final disc, while not altering the actual Guthrie story in any major way, do allow listeners to move in a little closer and experience the music as it was performed during those 1944 days. "Guitar Rag," a previously unreleased instrumental featuring Guthrie and Houston on guitars and Terry on harmonica, is truly thrilling, a pure sampling of what it would have been like to watch these three greats sitting around jamming casually. And "Sonny's Flight," which closes out the package and has also never before been issued, is a terrific stomping folk-blues that places Terry's harmonica front and center. My Dusty Road is a significant find, even if it doesn't rewrite the Woody Guthrie tale. ~ Jeff Tamarkin
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Pop - Released November 3, 2018 | Archive Catapult

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Country - Released June 8, 2012 | TB Music

Sixty years after the recordings were first released, Woody Guthrie's odes to the Dust Bowl are presented in their third different configuration. RCA Victor Records, the only major label for which Guthrie ever recorded, issued two three-disc 78 rpm albums, Dust Bowl Ballads, Vol. 1 and Dust Bowl Ballads, Vol. 2, in July 1940, containing a total of 11 songs. ("Tom Joad" was spread across two sides of a 78 due to its length.) Twenty-four years later, with the folk revival at its height, RCA reissued the material on a single 12" LP in a new sequence and with two previously unreleased tracks, "Pretty Boy Floyd" and "Dust Bowl Blues," added. Thirty-six years on, the Buddha reissue division of BMG, which owns RCA, shuffles the running order again and adds another track, this one an alternate take of "Talking Dust Bowl Blues." But whether available on 78s, LP, or CD, Dust Bowl Ballads constitutes a consistent concept album that roughly follows the outlines of John Steinbeck's 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath. (Indeed, "Tom Joad" is nothing less than the plot of the book set to music.) The story begins, as "The Great Dust Storm (Dust Storm Disaster)" has it, "On the fourteenth day of April of 1935," when a giant dust storm hits the Great Plains, transforming the landscape. Shortly after, the farmers pack up their families and head west, where they have been promised there is work aplenty picking fruit in the lush valleys of California. The trip is eventful, as "Talking Dust Bowl Blues" humorously shows, but the arrival is disappointing, as the Okies discover California is less than welcoming to those who don't bring along some "do[ough] re mi." Guthrie's songs go back and forth across this tale of woe, sometimes focusing on the horrors of the dust storm, sometimes on human villains, with deputy sheriffs and vigilantes providing particular trouble. In "Pretty Boy Floyd," he treats an ancillary subject, as the famous outlaw is valorized as a misunderstood Robin Hood. Guthrie treats his subject alternately with dry wit and defiance, and listeners in 1940 would have been conscious of the deliberate contrast with Jimmie Rodgers, whose music is evoked even as he is being mocked in "Dust Pneumonia Blues." Sixty years later, listeners may hear these songs through the music Guthrie influenced, particularly the folk tunes of Bob Dylan. Either way, this is powerful music, rendered simply and directly. It was devastatingly effective when first released, and it helped define all the folk music that followed it. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Folk - Released February 18, 1997 | Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

You'd think the last word in Woody Guthrie reissues would have appeared before this. After all, the legendary folksinger recorded most of his best work nearly 60 years before this was released, and the bulk of it has been regularly reissued in fine collections on Folkways, Rounder, and other labels. So this CD is as surprising as it is welcome. What makes it probably the single best Guthrie disc you can own? For one thing, the compilers had total access to the archives of Folkways Records founder Moses Asch, for whom the singer made the lion's share of his most important recordings. And they picked for this package 27 songs that showcase the incredible range of his writing and performing talent -- everything from children's ditties ("Car Song") to social commentary ("Do-Re-Mi") to historical tales ("End of the Line"). Then there's the title track -- Guthrie's most famous tune -- which was only sporadically available until this CD. It's here in two versions, including one that features the famous yet previously unreleased "private property" verses. The sound quality is as notable as the program. The compilers went back to the master recordings and did a magnificent job of cleaning things up without altering what Guthrie waxed. The result sounds pure and intimate -- as if the singer were right there in the room with you. Finally, there's a superb 36-page book with all sorts of fascinating detail on Asch, Guthrie, and every track. The best news: This is only the first volume in a four-CD series. ~ Jeff Burger
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Jazz - Released March 25, 2016 | Westmill

£6.39

Jazz - Released August 30, 2004 | Naxos

Booklet
Woody Guthrie's discography was a bit of a mess already before the 1990s began and his 50-year-old recordings began to go out of copyright in Europe. After the formal studio sessions for RCA Victor Records that produced the two three-disc 78 rpm albums Dust Bowl Ballads, Vol. 1 and Dust Bowl Ballads, Vol. 2 (later combined onto a single LP and CD) in 1940, Guthrie recorded hundreds of tracks for Moses Asch in the mid-'40s that Asch later released on his Folkways Records label, although some of them escaped to other hands in the wake of a 1947 bankruptcy, such that, when Guthrie became widely popular in the '60s, LPs of widely varying quality came out on various labels. After the Smithsonian Institution acquired the Folkways catalog in the '80s, some order began to emerge. But European copyright law once again opens the floodgates to low-quality, unauthorized, but technically legal Guthrie reissues. The British Prism Leisure label exists primarily to take advantage of the copyright limit, and Pastures of Plenty selects more or less randomly from material recorded for RCA and Asch, including tracks that later turned up on such labels as Stinson. The carelessness with which the tracks have been chosen is suggested by the inclusion of "Tom Joad, Pt. 2," the second half of a song Guthrie was forced to break into two parts for RCA because of the time limitations of a 78 disc, even though "Tom Joad, Pt. 1" is not included here. There are no annotations to speak of, only a brief biographical essay by Tony Watts that contains factual errors. (For example, Arlo Guthrie is not the progeny of Woody Guthrie's first marriage, contrary to Watts' contention.) This is hardly the ideal way to encounter Woody Guthrie, but the collection does provide value for the money if purchased at the modest price at which it was being offered in mail-order catalogs in the U.S. upon release (even though, technically, it should not be available for purchase in the U.S., where copyrights last much longer). ~ William Ruhlmann
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Pop - Released April 13, 2019 | T.S.M.u.s.i.c

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Pop - Released April 5, 2019 | Trupadoor Rec.

£4.79

Folk - Released March 25, 2019 | Black Barn Music

£4.79

Country - Released November 4, 2016 | Wireless USA Records

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Pop - Released April 17, 2019 | VolareineI Group

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Miscellaneous - Released June 7, 2017 | cappo digital

£3.99

Pop - Released August 14, 2018 | Bella Donna