Box set: Woody Guthrie

This Machine Kills Fascists, RECALL BOX / SNAPPER
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The Independent Culture

Such was the prolific nature of Woody Guthrie's muse - around 1,400 songs written, of which we know the tunes to a mere 400 - that an exhaustive survey would entail an entire library of discs. But this three-CD set offers as decent a one-stop anthology as any, touching all the bases of the Dust Bowl Bard's oeuvre, from alternative national anthems such as "This Land Is Your Land", "Pastures of Plenty" and "So Long, It's Been Good to Know You" to outlaw songs such as "Pretty Boy Floyd" and "Jesse James" and children's trifles like "Car Song". The liner notes compare Guthrie's output to that of Schumann or Schubert, acknowledging their shared penchant for song-cycles: here, his Dust Bowl Ballads are represented by "Tom Joad" and around half a dozen songs featuring the word "dust" in the title; his travelling songs by a clutch of numbers likewise featuring the words "hobo" or "rambling"; and his celebrations of the New Deal industrial expansion by "Grand Coulee Dam" and "Talking Columbia". The latter is emblematic both of Guthrie's casual-but-sharp demotic style and his abiding concerns, which can be essentially summarised in the couplet "Thought about the dust, thought about the sand/ Thought about the people, and I thought about the land".

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