The Early Years is one of the more lasting of Guthrie's compilations, being released for the first time in 1964 and re-released on a number of occasions. And though the title The Early Years is not totally correct, the songs offered give a good overview over Guthrie's early production, even if the space offered on a double album (or a CD) of course isn't enough. Original protest songs like "Pretty Boy Floyd" (covered up in an outlaw story) share the space with re-workings of folk songs like "Gypsy Davy," and even a few religious songs make it in. Guthrie has been vastly influential, and this album is packed with songs that already were or were later to become classics. Of course they have also been covered innumerable times, by artists as different as Lonnie Donegan and Nick Cave. The most obvious follower is Bob Dylan, who it is hard to figure without the influence of Guthrie. Not only the fake accent from Dylan's first record is taken from Guthrie, but also the guitar playing, and especially the singing. Listen to "Buffalo Skinners" for proof. The reissues of this album are often cheap, making them a good deal since there are 20 tracks included, but also meaning a lack of cover notes and sloppy credit lists. The CMD version, for example, labels all songs as traditional, even though many are written by Guthrie or other well-known artists.
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AllMusic Review by Lars Lovén