Thirty-Two Cents: Postage Due

Arlo Guthrie

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Thirty-Two Cents: Postage Due Review

by William Ruhlmann

Throughout his career, Arlo Guthrie has sung and recorded songs written by his father, Woody Guthrie. But 32ยข/Postage Due, released on his own Rising Son Records label, is his first outright tribute album in which, as a credit states, "All songs: words & music by Woody Guthrie." Of course, Woody Guthrie was known to borrow and adapt existing folk and country tunes while adding his own lyrics to them. That provides some of the impetus for this album, since Arlo Guthrie has enlisted the bluegrass group the Dillards to play the songs with him, and they must be familiar with most, if not all, of the melodies, even if they might be inclined to associate them with other traditional songs. Arlo Guthrie has his own buoyant vocal style, quite distinct from his father's, and he has been playing in a folk/country/bluegrass style for many years, so this session seems to have been a comfortable, easygoing one for him and the Dillards. The tracks are full of spoken asides and false starts, adding to the informal atmosphere. Some of Woody Guthrie's best-known songs are included, such as selections from his dustbowl ballads and Columbia River songs and, inevitably (but instrumentally only), "This Land Is Your Land." Arlo Guthrie and the Dillards emphasize the musicality of the songs, which are by now historical documents rather than the topically, politically oriented works they may have been when Woody Guthrie wrote them. Thus, even at their most dire, they fit into Arlo Guthrie's essentially sunny outlook.

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