Although the attendance (and the attendant live albums) for the 1964 Newport Folk Festival was greater than any previous event, it must be said that it could not hold a candle to its most immediate predecessor. In 1963, after all, folk and the protest movement were at their peak -- by 1964, both the winds of change and the forces of commerce had begun to sweep across the vista and, while there is no faulting either the commitment or the performances aired that weekend, still one can sense the mood beginning to shift. Suddenly, protest had less to do with changing the world than changing one's bank account -- for the better, of course. The absence of Bob Dylan from Vanguard's seven-volume documentary of the festival is only the most pertinent example of this. In 1963, he and his label, Columbia, had been glad for the publicity that the Newport LPs wrought. The following year...well, did Dylan actually need publicity any longer? Two newcomers impress on this particular volume, Buffy Sainte-Marie, who weighs in with two fine performances, and Jose Feliciano, whose frantic folk-flavored rendition of "La Bamba" is as quirky as it is astonishing. Elsewhere, Phil Ochs serves up the hilarious "Draft Dodger Rag," in which the protagonist addresses the military with a long list of the reasons why he ought to be inducted immediately. He can even supply his own handbag, to carry his kit in. One of the most lasting byproducts of the early-'60s folk revival was the rediscovery not only of long-lost songs and traditions, but also of long-forgotten performers. Sleepy John Estes, the 1930s veteran bluesman drawn back to prominence by Chicago blues singer Dave Blumenthal, serves up an enjoyable jug-flavored "Corinna," while a veritable feast of bluegrass and the like is served up by the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, whose three offerings close the album.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson