This collection of Woody Guthrie's recordings from 1944-1947 finds the poet and traveler laying down some of his best-known songs with frequent collaborators Cisco Houston and Sonny Terry, as well as a few appearances from "Guitar Slim" Alec Seward. Despite the rather aggressive title, Best of the War Years refers more to the time span, offering no more patriotic or political songs than can usually be found on a Woody Guthrie best-of. Actually, if anything, at this point in his life Guthrie was focusing more on his family life, recording primarily children's songs and fairly tame traditional folk songs. Many scholars and listeners will agree that these cowboy tunes and simple folk tunes are among his most enjoyable, and Stardust has done an excellent job of compiling these on one disc. Favorites like "Hard, Ain't It Hard," "John Henry," "Pretty Boy Floyd," "More Pretty Girls Than One," and "Worried Man Blues" are all represented alongside lesser-known gems like "Ranger's Command," "Bury Me Beneath the Willow," and a bluesy take of "Rock Me Momma" featuring Guitar Slim on lead vocals. At this point there are almost as many Guthrie collections as there are Guthrie songs, but Best of the War Years ends up somewhere near the top.
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AllMusic Review by Zac Johnson