Cisco Houston is sometimes more remembered for his association with Woody Guthrie than for his gift as a folksinger. His smooth, deep baritone was interpreted by many folk purists as "commercial," thus inauthentic, and unlike Guthrie, he preferred interpreting other writer's songs as opposed to writing his own. Released two years after Houston's death, Cisco Houston Sings the Songs of Woody Guthrie finds the singer once again stepping out of the limelight to pay deference to his famous friend. The surprising thing to anyone unfamiliar with traditional folk music, however, is how enjoyable and accessible this collection is. Indeed, Houston's vocals on classics like "Deportees" and "Buffalo Skinners" are much more pleasing musically than Guthrie's dry, Oklahoma rasp. If one compares Houston's take on "Pastures of Plenty" with Guthrie's version on The Asch Recordings, for instance, Houston's version comes across as more inspired and more respectful of the lyrics. While this comparison would not hold true on Houston's versions of "Pretty Boy Floyd" and "Do Re Me," his interpretations are more than proficient. Perhaps the best way to understand his contributions to folk music is to understand him as a prophet of sorts, a John the Baptist spreading the word about another great folksinger who -- because of Huntington's chorea -- could no longer sing his own songs. Cisco Houston Sings the Songs of Woody Guthrie is a lovely tribute to a friend by someone who understood the significance of his music.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.