It s no overstatement to say that American music and America itself would be very different without the lasting influence of the late singer/songwriter Woody Guthrie (1912 1967). He was the prototype of the 20th Century rambling minstrel, turning his travels and observations into a huge body of topical and timeless music songs that contrasted our country s natural glories and sociopolitical shames, pro-labor songs, both anti- and pro-war songs, kids songs, patriotic and left-wing songs, music for everyday people to think about as they sing.
When the 21-year-old Pete Seeger first met Guthrie, six years his senior, backstage at a benefit concert in 1940, he was enthralled by Guthrie s music, lyrical vision, and charisma. The two men started traveling and performing together, which was, in Pete s words, his own big, big education in learning about America. On the new 2-CD Pete Remembers Woody, Pete recounts his vivid firsthand reminiscences, wide-ranging and frequently humorous, of Woody s adult life Guthrie s transmutation of his experiences and omnivorous readings into popular although often controversial songs, his tips on freight-hopping and saloon singing, encounters with musical contemporaries Leadbelly and others, and many of the life lessons Pete has subsequently used in his own career, still ongoing in this Centennial year of Guthrie s birth.
Interspersed with Pete s recollections of Woody are versions of some of Guthrie s most famous songs performed by idealistic links in the topical music chain like Arlo Guthrie (dueting with Pete on one of the few Woody-Seeger co-writes, 66 Highway Blues ), the Work o the Weavers ( This Land is Your Land, So Long, It s Been Good to Know Yuh! ), CD producer David Bernz, whose own three-part Woody s Ghost serves to bookend and provide an intermission between the two CDs, and Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, who added music to Woody s lyrics for Howdy Little Newlycome. The Vanaver Caravan, the 40-year-old troupe of musicians and dancers, performs the Depression plaint Do Re Mi, Union Maid, Pastures of Plenty and Peace Pin Boogie, while members of Hope Machine tackle I Ain t Got No Home and I ve Got to Know. Woody himself, with another of his running buddies, Cisco Houston, is heard on a 1940s recording of New York Town. Fink s banjo-playing on various traditional tunes helps tie together the masterful sequencing of spoken stories and related songs.
That two men Guthrie and Seeger with a passion to carry on and expand music s potential for social change among the less fortunate, as well as for entertainment should overlap, interact and inspire fellow and future musicians and listeners was a timely miracle. Listen to how it happened and how it lives on on this lively spoken and sung musical document.
Fascinating and engaging... --- Scott Bauer, Associated Press
Listening to this wondrous 2CD set is like having the great man riding shotgun in your car, or filling your listening room up with recollections and stories of his dear friend, Woodrow Wilson Guthrie. --- Mike Jurkovic, Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Seeger s recollections provide illuminating context for some of Guthrie s best-known works, while also documenting his relationship with his fellow folk giant. --- Nick Cristiano, Philadelphia Inquirer