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American Radical Patriot
10" vinyl, Box Set
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American Radical Patriot
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Woody Guthrie: Radical American Patriot is a collection of material recorded "in service" of the U.S. Government. Here are his complete Library of Congress interviews and musical performances recorded by Alan Lomax (released in their entirety for the first time); his songs written while employed by the Bonneville Power Administration, including a previously unreleased, minor key version of "Pastures of Plenty"; a set of previously unheard home demonstration recordings of songs made for a late 1940s public health service VD education program; three radio skits, including two for the Office of War Information during the Second World War; and a number of other radio performances made in support of the war effort. It's a sweeping overview both of a transitional period in American history, and of the prolific, multi-faceted life of Woody Guthrie.
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American Radical Patriot puts in front of you an image of what it was like to be Woody Guthrie in the early to mid-20th century.
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The Rounder set is limited to just 5,000 copies and contains practically all previously unissued material. There are six CDs. The first four contain the complete Library of Congress Recordings made by Alan Lomax. Unlike the Jelly Roll Morton LoC recordings that Rounder released years ago, Guthrie brings his guitar, rather than the piano, and he doesn't tap his foot while playing - which is what Morton did and it's often difficult to listen to the JRM recordings because of that. Woody is engaging and tells some great stories I've never heard. CDs 5 and 6 include the BPA recordings as well as War Effort songs from radio transcriptions. He even appeared on two programs titled "Jazz in America". This is followed by a group of "demos" Woody made on the subject of venereal disease and finally a radio drama titled "The Lonesome Traveler". But there is more to the set. There is a wonderful 60-minute DVD of the documentary "Roll On Columbia" about Woody being hired to create songs for the Bonneville Dam Project . The film was made at the University of Oregon in 2002. The set includes a 60page booklet written by Rounder co-founder Bill Nowlin. This is a condensed version of the 258-page book which is available as a full length PDF on one of the CDs. There is also a 10-in vinyl 78-rpm record of Bob Dylan singing Woody's "VD City" on one side and a previously unreleased version of "The Biggest Thing That Man Has Ever Done" on the reverse.
Press were given access to audio streams of the 141 tracks on the CDs (140 CD tracks plus the aforementioned unreleased track by Woody) as well as a PDF of the 258-page book, but not the 60-page booklet or vinyl 78rpm disc.
I spent a couple of days listening to all the audio tracks and was amazed at the sound quality. At times it seemed that it was not 1941, but 2013 and Woody and Lomax were sitting in the room with me. Press was not given the DVD and I was lucky enough to have a friend who is the sound archivist at University of Oregon Sound Archive so I was able to get a copy from him and it's great! I can't read books on a PC and I don't have an e-reader so I haven't read Nowlin's book or had access to the 60page version with illustrations, so I can't tell you about that. The Nowlin book is available separately for about $10. on Amazon.
My guess is that with a $125 list price and many tracks that buyers will only listen to once, that this collection will be purchased by libraries - and they should (making them available to their patrons). Those who deal in "limited edition" packages may also buy them as investments (and I wonder what Woody would think of that!). It's possible that, at some future date, Rounder will release just the CDs - without the books, DVD and 78 - as they did with the Jelly Roll Morton set (which was also packaged (in the shape of a piano) with a thick book.
This is really a great set and I spent nearly a week listening and watching. I know for certain that it is Grammy nom bound. It may be the last of the Woody Centennial projects but it was worth the wait.
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.