In the annals of American history, few singer-songwriters were as incisive about our country as Woody Guthrie (1912-1967). He tirelessly dedicated himself and his songcraft to the hard-working, common man of the country, and was as equally vocal about injustices he saw in his many travels across the nation. And lately, as fans recently celebrated what would have been his 100th birthday, several great products came out in celebration of this milestone.
But what many have forgotten about Guthrie is the full extent of his patriotism. Indeed, many of his recordings – those which championed the poor and the hungry, or those who turned to unions and the Communist Party to feel like their voices were heard – were done in some service of the American government. American Radical Patriot, Rounder Records’ new 85-song 6 CD/1 DVD/1 LP box set, will explore that dichotomy in great detail.
Four of the discs in American Radical Patriot feature, for the first time, the complete Woody Guthrie-Alan Lomax recordings. In 1940, the 27-year-old Guthrie visited the Library of Congress, and allowed researcher/folklorist Lomax to record both original songs, including “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know Yuh,” “Do Re Mi,” “Pretty Boy Floyd” and “I Ain’t Got No Home,” and interviews over a five-hour period. Three hours of this historic session were released on Elektra Records in 1964 as The Library of Congress Recordings. Now presented with newly-remastered audio and a full transcript in the box’s 258-page book, this is the first time all of these sensational documents have been available in full.
American Radical Patriot includes even more sensational rarities from Guthrie’s life and career, including:
- 17 songs Guthrie wrote and recorded for the Pacific Northwest’s Bonneville Power Administration
- Five songs composed and performed with the Almanac Singers to support anti-fascist efforts in World War II
- Two radio dramas for the U.S. Office of War Information
- Three songs from broadcasts of Jazz America
- 10 compositions for an anti-venereal disease campaign created by the U.S. Public Health Service, along with a health-themed radio drama commissioned by Columbia University
In addition to a DVD with as-yet unspecified features, American Radical Patriot closes out with a 78-rpm vinyl disc featuring on one side a 1951 home recording of “The Greatest Thing That Man Has Ever Done” by Guthrie, and on another, a 1961 recording of “VD City” by a young Guthrie admirer who went by the name of Bob Dylan.
For fans of Americana and folk, this may be the box set to beat in 2013. American Radical Patriot, limited to 5,000 copies, is due September 24. Order your copy here and check out an unreleased track from the box at Rolling Stone.