Mittwoch, 21. September 2016

Woody Guthrie - Dust Bowl Ballads (1940)


Sixty years after the recordings were first released, Woody Guthrie's odes to the Dust Bowl are presented in their third different configuration.

RCA Victor Records, the only major label for which Guthrie ever recorded, issued two three-disc 78 rpm albums, "Dust Bowl Ballads, Vol. 1" and "Dust Bowl Ballads, Vol. 2", in July 1940, containing a total of 11 songs. ("Tom Joad" was spread across two sides of a 78 due to its length.).
Twenty-four years later, with the folk revival at its height, RCA reissued the material on a single 12" LP in a new sequence and with two previously unreleased tracks, "Pretty Boy Floyd" and "Dust Bowl Blues," added.
Thirty-six years on, the Buddha reissue division of BMG, which owns RCA, shuffles the running order again and adds another track, this one an alternate take of "Talking Dust Bowl Blues."

But whether available on 78s, LP, or CD, "Dust Bowl Ballads" constitutes a consistent concept album that roughly follows the outlines of John Steinbeck's 1939 novel "The Grapes of Wrath". (Indeed, "Tom Joad" is nothing less than the plot of the book set to music.) The story begins, as "The Great Dust Storm (Dust Storm Disaster)" has it, "On the fourteenth day of April of 1935," when a giant dust storm hits the Great Plains, transforming the landscape. Shortly after, the farmers pack up their families and head west, where they have been promised there is work aplenty picking fruit in the lush valleys of California. The trip is eventful, as "Talking Dust Bowl Blues" humorously shows, but the arrival is disappointing, as the Okies discover California is less than welcoming to those who don't bring along some "do[ough] re mi."
Guthrie´s songs go back and forth across this tale of woe, sometimes focusing on the horrors of the dust storm, sometimes on human villains, with deputy sheriffs and vigilantes providing particular trouble. In "Pretty Boy Floyd," he treats an ancillary subject, as the famous outlaw is valorized as a misunderstood Robin Hood. Guthrie treats his subject alternately with dry wit and defiance, and listeners in 1940 would have been conscious of the deliberate contrast with Jimmie Rodgers, whose music is evoked even as he is being mocked in "Dust Pneumonia Blues."

Sixty years later, listeners may hear these songs through the music Guthrie influenced, particularly the folk tunes of Bob Dylan. Either way, this is powerful music, rendered simply and directly. It was devastatingly effective when first released, and it helped define all the folk music that followed it.

Woody Guthrie was born on July 14th, 1912 in Okemah, Oklahoma, so this year we can celebrate his 100th birthday!

Woody Guthrie - Dust Bowl Ballads (1940)
(192 kbps, front cover included)

2 Kommentare:

Philip hat gesagt…

Thank you for this, one of the greatest American folk recordings ever!. I once had an open-reel tape of this, copied from a public library LP. Good to hear it again. By the way, I once came across a claim that Guthrie had been an extra in the Hollywood film of "Grapes of Wrath." Anyone know if that's true?

zero hat gesagt…

From http://www.pophistorydig.com/topics/tag/the-grapes-of-wrath-woody-guthrie/ :

Among those who first saw the film in 1940 was Depression-era balladeer Woody Guthrie. In fact, Guthrie was so moved by what he saw at a New York screening that he wrote a long song about the film immediately after viewing it. Set to the tune of “John Hardy,” Guthrie’s “The Ballad of Tom Joad” summarizes the The Grapes of Wrath story in a 17-verse song. Folk singer Pete Seeger, who saw Guthrie that night, has described how Guthrie set about writing the song:

…He said, “Pete, do you know where I can get a typewriter?” I said, “I’m staying with someone who has one.”

“Well, I got to write a ballad,” he said. “I don’t usually write ballads to order, but Victor [the record company] wants me to do a whole album of Dust Bowl songs, and they say they want one about Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath.”

. . . He went along to the place where I was staying — six flights walking up — on East Fourth Street. The friend I was staying with [Jerry Oberwager] said, “Sure, you can use my typewriter.”

Woody had a half-gallon jug of wine with him, sat down and started typing away. He would stand up every few seconds and test out a verse on his guitar and sit down and type some more. About one o’clock my friend and I got so sleepy we couldn’t stay awake. In the morning we found Woody curled up on the floor under the table; the half gallon of wine was almost empty and the completed ballad was sitting near the typewriter….

Guthrie, in his own plain style, also wrote about seeing the film in one of his columns for the People’s World, praising its directness: “. . . Shows the damn bankers men that broke us and the dust that choked us, and comes right out in plain old English and says what to do about it.” Guthrie urged his readers to go see the film. “. . .You was the star in that picture,” he wrote, meaning his everyman readers. “Go and see your own self and hear your own words . . .”

Guthrie’s song, meanwhile, “The Ballad of Tom Joad,” was first recorded at RCA Studios, Camden, New Jersey, April 1940 and released on an album titled Dust Bowl Ballads in July 1940.

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