Happy May Day comrades – a day that we should celebrate this year of all years given the sacrifices so many frontline workers are making at the moment. Showing appreciation through clapping is cathartic and an important demonstration of our strength of feeling, but those individuals we’re applauding might appreciate more the same things every generation of workers have wanted: stable funding, decent pay and safe conditions in which to work – outrageous demands, I know.. We leave you then this week dear reader with one of the US’s most famous folk songs. Its lyrics were written by Woody Guthrie in 1940, based on an existing melody, a Carter Family tune called ‘When the World’s on Fire’, in critical response to Irving Berlin’s ‘God Bless America.’ Its sentiment never gets old – solidarity with your neighbour is what will get us through the worst of times. Have a good one and take care.
Celebrating its whopping 80th birthday this year, Dust Bowl Ballads remains a prescient and relevant piece of musical reportage and remarkably unique. Woody Guthrie hailed from Oklahoma, settled in Texas, but made his mark in New York. He is well-known for his travels around the South-West in the 1930s, reinterpreting the blues of the area as a new folk troubadour. In this, his first work, he wrote about the plight of the people affected by the dust bowl, a series of droughts and dust storms that swept across the Southern Plains. It is a comprehensive 14 tracks, each one detailing a different aspect of the troubles. Lung and health ailments, buried tractors, refugeeing, crime, poverty, deaths, it is all laid out quietly and matter-of-factly. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Woody Guthrie “Dust Bowl Ballads” (Victor Records, 1940)”
You know times must be tough when an album of pre World War 2 working class American songs sounds topical. ‘Working- Class Heroes’ finds folk singers Mat Callahan and Yvonne Moore revisiting 20 songs mainly culled from ‘Hard Hitting Songs for Hard-Hit People’, a book compiled by Alan Lomax with notes on the songs from Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, which was published in the sixties. It’s a reminder that times were certainly tough back then and also that the American working class were much more radical with communism and anarchy popular while strikes were often broken with savage violence by the forces of capitalism. Continue reading “Mat Callahan & Yvonne Moore “Working-Class Heroes: A History Of Struggle and Song” (Free Dirt Records, 2019)”
Possibly the most worthwhile music project of the century so far, ambitious in scale and a delight from start to finish, Paste report: “Saturday marked the 100th day of the new regime, and that number feels even more trivial and arbitrary now that we’re on the other side of it—especially when it means that Our First 100 Days, the playlist that’s been getting us through with a new song every day, was forced by virtue of its own name to come to a close. Continue reading “Our First 100 Days project ends with Phosphorescent playing Woody Guthrie – Listen”
This will set your weekend off to a good start, it’ll elevate the hairs on the back of your neck (well until you read the Trump bit of the accompanying piece). Spin reports on Wednesday evening’s events: “Woody Guthrie was the hall of fame inductee at last night’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, which sort of makes you wonder who’s in the hall already if Woody’s only just now getting in. In any case, the UK folksinger Billy Bragg gave a tribute performance to the icon last night, and it was quite lovely. Bragg is probably the most easily identifiable inheritor of Guthrie’s weighty legacy as poet and troubadour of the working class–his 1998 collaborative album with Wilco Mermaid Avenue set unused Guthrie lyrics to original music–and he handled the role with gravity, performing a somber rendition of “I Ain’t Got No Home,” Guthrie’s devastating ballad of poverty. (The song was previously covered by Bruce Springsteen and Bragg himself on 2013’s Tooth and Nail.) Continue reading “Billy Bragg pays tribute to Woody Guthrie at Folk Awards – Watch”