Woody Guthrie

This Machine Kills Fascists [Snapper]

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British label Snapper Music's three-CD Woody Guthrie box set This Machine Kills Fascists is an audio accompaniment to a home video of the same name that presents a nearly three-hour documentary film biography of the legendary folksinger. The cover pictures of the CD and DVD are the same, but the contents are not. The box set has some pretensions to scholarship, at least in its booklet, which contains an essay by Guthrie biographer Ed Cray (who is also an interview subject in the film) and a list of the 66 tracks that indicates musicians and recording dates where available. The music itself, however, is a randomly sequenced miscellany of Guthrie recordings taking advantage of the 50-year limit on copyright for recordings in Europe to draw upon Guthrie's 1940 RCA Victor Records collections of Dust Bowl ballads and the large cache of tracks he made for Moses Asch in the mid-'40s that were released on Folkways Records in various configurations over the years. Some of Guthrie's greatest compositions ("This Land Is Your Land," "So Long, It's Been Good to Know You" in both original and revised World War II versions, "Pastures of Plenty," "Do-Re-Mi") are interspersed with off-the-cuff performances of old folk and country songs. Nominally speaking, this sort of public domain project is supposed to master its tracks from old 78s and LPs, but the sound quality here is good enough to suggest that the engineers at Snapper went out and got some of the Smithsonian Folkways CD to copy. In any case, the RCA and Folkways versions of this music tend to be more coherently presented as well as more legitimate.

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