The Woody Guthrie album Worried Man Blues: The Best Of, released by Master Classics in 2005, is identical in contents and annotations to the Woody Guthrie album The Very Best Of released by Purple Pyramid in 2001. Ever since 1947, when record company owner Moses Asch declared bankruptcy and his former partner and creditor, Herbert Harris of Stinson Records, held onto a batch of Asch's Woody Guthrie masters in lieu of payment, those tracks, a small part of a cache of hundreds of casually recorded songs Guthrie and such friends as Cisco Houston and Sonny Terry made starting in April 1944, have been issued over and over on albums that, while unauthorized, are -- strictly speaking -- not illegal. (Asch disputed Harris' ownership of the tracks, but neither had the wherewithal to pursue claims in court.) The first of these albums were on Stinson Records, of course, but they have appeared on many labels since. Here is another collection of a baker's dozen of them, licensed from San Juan Music Group. Of course, they are not "the best of" Woody Guthrie by any stretch of the imagination, just some old folk songs, sometimes boasting new lyrics from Guthrie, and the occasional Guthrie original, such as "Pretty Boy Floyd." With Houston chiming in on tenor vocals here and there, plus Sonny Terry's harmonica added to the guitar and/or mandolin accompaniment, the style is somewhat akin to the old-timey country music of such 1930s artists as the Monroe Brothers. But, for the most part, this is not the Woody Guthrie of "This Land Is Your Land," and thus far from his best. Master Classics has taken two actions to separate its release from the pack of similar competitors, one laudable, but the other deplorable. Bringing in Dave Thompson to write liner notes on each individual song was a good idea, along with listing recording dates and personnel. But employing one Danny B. Harvey to undertake a "remix" of "Worried Man Blues" was a disastrously bad idea. Of course, "remix" in this context means that Harvey has overdubbed instruments on the existing track; he turns "Worried Man Blues" into a Carl Perkins-like rockabilly track with the addition of guitar, acoustic bass, and snare drum. The result is just as bad as it sounds like it would be, turning this disc into a mockery.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann