Woody Guthrie

The Woody Guthrie Story

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This four-CD set breaks down into two parts. The first two CDs, running about 100 minutes, contain a biography of Woody Guthrie written and read by John Garton. Garton is credited with research, and his research seems to have consisted of reading Joe Klein's 1980 biography Woody Guthrie: A Life and then sitting down to paraphrase and summarize it, adding here and there the perspective of a British socialist. He spends a great deal of time on Guthrie's early life and family and a great deal of time on Guthrie's erratic behavior in his middle age before he was diagnosed with Huntington's Chorea, a disease that largely explains that behavior. A surprisingly small amount of time is spent on Guthrie's music. Garton's political perspective finds him, for example, describing the U.S. as "a definitively right-wing country" and Senator Joseph McCarthy as "insane." His British accent and relative ignorance of his subject lead him to mispronunciations (Cisco Houston as "Whostin") and worse (Irwin Silber as if spelled "Sibler"). He gives way at one point to a lengthy excerpt from Guthrie's Library of Congress interviews with Alan Lomax and at another to a reminiscence from Guthrie associate Jimmy Longhi. The third and fourth CDs, running about two-and-a-half hours, contain 52 miscellaneous Guthrie recordings mastered from Folkways and Stinson LPs and RCA Victor's Dust Bowl Ballads. The recordings being in the public domain in Europe, they have simply been copied. Many of these tracks are rough in both performance and sound quality, and they actually feature a mixture of performers -- Lead Belly, for example -- taking lead vocals on several songs. One would be better off buying the Smithsonian Folkways and RCA recordings of these tracks and reading the Klein book than purchasing this set, unless it can be obtained cheaply.

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:49
2 2:47
3 3:11
4 2:23
5 2:15
6 2:42
7 3:05
8 3:28
9 6:37
10 3:07
11 2:53
13 2:34
14 2:34
15 2:38
16 2:32
17 2:48
18 3:40
19 2:27
20 3:07
21 2:27
22 2:18
23 3:03
24 2:18
25 3:02
26 2:36
blue highlight denotes track pick