JOHN McCUTCHEON, “This Land: Woody Gurthrie’s America,” Appalsongs. 15 tracks.
This is a folk album, not bluegrass. And that’s a shame because a bluegrass tribute to the songs of Woody Guthrie is long overdue.
Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born in Okemah, Okla., just 10 months after Bill Monroe was born in Rosine, Ky. And both became giants in their musical fields.
Monroe’s music leaned more toward the instrumentation; Gurthrie’s to the lyrics.
A blending of the two would make for some great music.
John McCutcheon, a Guthrie disciple, brings 14 of Guthrie’s songs to life here along with “Hobo’s Lullaby,” a song Guthrie supposedly said was his favorite.
It’s been nearly 60 years since Guthrie, who died in 1967 at age 55, wrote his last song. But his lyrics still sound familiar in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
His most famous song, “This Land Is Your Land,” really says that America belongs to the people, not the rich or the corporations. Here it features an all-star cast including Tom Paxton and Willie Nelson.
“Deportees,” a song about migrant workers being shipped back to Mexico when the crops have been harvested, fits well with today’s immigration debates.
And plenty of people today can relate to “I Ain’t Got No Home.”
“Biggest Thing That Man Has Ever Done” says that creating a peaceful world would be the biggest thing that we could do. And we haven’t found a way to do that yet.
“Ludlow Massacre” and “1913 Massacre” detail early union struggles. Guthrie’s lyrics are anything but subtle. He believed in calling a “gun thug” a gun thug.
“Pretty Boy Floyd” turns bank robber Charles Arthur Floyd into a 1930s Robin Hood. But the song really says that it was the banks who were the robbers: “Some will rob you with a six-gun/And some with a fountain pen,” Guthrie sang and added, “You won’t never see an outlaw/Drive a family from their home.”
Tim O’Brien plays mandolin on “Ludlow Massacre” and “This Morning I Was Born Again.” Stuart Duncan adds his fiddle to “1913 Massacre” and “Deportees.”
Great album. Just wish it was bluegrass.
Can’t find it in stores? Try http://www.FolkMusic.com.