By Thomas Conner
© Chicago Sun-Times
Woody Guthrie & Lead Belly
"Folkways: The Original Vision — Songs of Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly"
In several years of studying the life and legacy of American folk troubadour Woody Guthrie, I've learned one nearly constant truth: Hardly anyone first hears Woody from Woody. They hear his songs performed by Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, The Clash, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg, Wilco, etc. — and then they go hunting the Guthrie greatest-hits for a taste of the headwaters.
Same with Lead Belly, a Guthrie peer who also suffers from lack of name recognition despite the number of artists who have reinterpreted his music. That's why this expanded reissue of this 17-year old collection of both folk songwriters' "hits" is refreshing at this juncture. Not only has Guthrie's cachet increased in the last decade (the founding of the Woody Guthrie Archives, the annual hootenanny of the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, etc.) but the six extra songs added to this edition remind us of the solidity of Lead Belly's influence of blues and rock, as well. New to this set is his "Gallis Pole," made famous by Led Zeppelin, and "In the Pines," covered by Nirvana.
The punk, the blues, some of the rock and a lot of the country out there today — much of it started with these two brave friends. The history is always worth hearing. And wouldn't it be cool to have some scratchy old 78s on your iPod?
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These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.