1. This Land Is Your Land
2. Great Dust Storm (Dust Storm Disaster)
3. Talking Dust Bowl Blues
4. Dusty Old Dust (So Long It's Been Good To Know Yuh)
5. Dust Bowl Blues
6. Blowin' Down This Road (I Ain't Gonna Be Treated This Way)
7. Tom Joad
8. Do Re Mi
9. Dust Bowl Refugee
10. I Ain't Got No Home In This World Anymore
11. Vigilante Man
12. Dust Cain't Kill Me
13. Dust Pneumonia Blues
14. Babe O' Mine
15. I Ride An Old Paint – with The Almanac Singers
16. Hard Ain't It Hard - with The Almanac Singers
17. Pretty Boy Floyd
18. Grand Coulee Dam
19. New York Town
20. Gypsy Davey
21. Buffalo Skinners
22. Pastures Of Plenty
23. Hard Travellin'
24. Ramblin' Round
25. Talking Columbia Blues
26. Hobo's Lullaby
Woody Guthrie (guitar)
Retrospective’s album titles are getting more and more Jamesian by the minute. For this release they seem to have considered at least five titles, decided they couldn’t do without any, and proceeded to plaster them all over the front of the booklet. ‘Woody Guthrie’ would have done just as well.
However, since this disc replicates Living Era CD AJA 560 down to the same transfers and the same notes by Greg Gormick (except ‘Living Era’ has now been changed to ‘Retrospective’ and the copyright date changed from 2006 to 2012), I’m going to reprise my review of that earlier release.
The Dust Bowl Ballads are currently available on a number of labels – Rounder, always a good source of material, Buddha and Camden are just three of the single disc labels devoted to them - whilst Recall’s three disc set has the Ballads spread throughout - I’ve not checked exhaustively but I think they’re all there. Add to these other reissues that contain most if not all of them and you gave a rather saturated market for these, some of the most important discs of their kind.
Since Guthrie’s influence has been so pervasive – on Pete Seeger and on Bob Dylan and now on Bruce Springsteen whose big band recreations have a certain emphatic charm – it’s important that this body of work is made available in good transfers, well annotated. That’s the case here, even to the extent of retaining some surface noise in the interest of keeping that all important treble openness.
Recorded a week apart the Ballads codified the protest of the land – remarkably these Victors were the only major record company discs that he recorded – and resonate powerfully. He plays harmonica on a fair few, and restyles that old ballad John Henry as Tom Joad. Pervasive influences are the balladry imported by British pioneers, the rural blues, as exemplified by Blind Lemon Jefferson on New York Town where he’s joined by Cisco Houston, and Jimmy Rogers - a strong vocal influence on Dust Pneumonia Blues.
The folk, blues, spirituals and traditional material was wrought by Guthrie into his own form of social protest, and it’s especially interesting to hear the early Almanac Singers sides of 1941 where Guthrie was joined by Seeger, amongst others. They were the precursors of the Weavers, a group of even greater popularity, whose discs have been much reissued.
Well transferred and embracing a wide range of songs and ballads this is a good single disc selection of Guthrie’s work.