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The best tribute to Woody Guthrie on the centenary of his birth - And many previously unreleased recordings
on July 10, 2012
Folk singer and activist Woody Guthrie would have been 100 years old on July 14, 2012 (he died in 1967 at Age 55). Best known for composing "This Land is Your Land" and the song we all learned as kids, "So Long It's Been Good To Know You", Guthrie was a prolific songwriter - writing thousands of songs (really), many just the words which folk and pop artists have been adding new music to.
There are lots of projects being released this year to celebrate what is officially called "Woody 100" and I've head other CDs and read other books but none can compare to this landmark project from Smithsonian Folkways - using the recordings held in the Ralph Rinzler Collection and the Smithsonian's own recording from the Moe Asch Collection. It was produced by Robert Santelli of the Grammy Museum and Smithsonian Folk Archivist Jeff Place. Santelli is a writer and authored another book ("This Land Is Your Land" from Running Press) this year but it pales compared to the text in the 150-page 12x12 hardbound book that is part of this set. The graphics are great and Place - who writes the wonderfully detailed essays for Smithsonian/Folkways releases - provides lots of new information. Speaking of "new", 21 of the recordings on the three CDs (each packed to gills with material) in the set have never been released before. A few are on the first two CDs (which have been reprocessed to sound better than ever) but Disc Three is worth the price of admission alone. Here we have Woody's earliest recordings (from the late 1930s) plus two rare radio programs (each 15 minutes) that Woody did for New York stations WNEW and WNYC. He sings a few songs that he didn't write but there are more that he did - including three never released commercially. The disc is filled out with other rarities including his recording of "Goodnight Little Cathy", which he wrote for his daughter who died in a fire in 1947.
I could go on and on about this volume but I'd rather let you discover some of the surprises for yourself (like I did). EVERY folk music collector will want this in their collection and EVERY library should have a copy so a whole new generation can discover the man behind "This Land Is Your Land". Kudos to Place and Santelli and the whole Smithsonian Recordings staff. A true masterpiece!
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