Woodie Guthrie: Dust Bowl Ballads (Rounder)
Oft-cited, but undoubtedly too rarely heard of late, this one's the
very core of the "folk-protest" genre. Which makes it doubly ironic
that it was originally issued as a double-album. 1940 style. Which
comprised two sets of three 78s - undoubtedly out of the price-range
of the people that Woody was singing about…
But, of course, "folk-protest" music is rarely made for, or
listened-to by, the "folk" themselves. Which is why this fine
collection of archaic rural tunes - w/mostly new lyrics by Mr Guthrie
- has rarely been discussed in the context of hillbilly music.
Which is basically what it is….Fine hillbilly music, undoubtedly.
Redolent not only of the 1930s Depression - which birthed it - but
also of the harsh & forgotten Depression of the 1890s. Whence came
some of its words, and many of its tunes - and much of its sense that
the Dustbowl was simply the latest in a never-ending round of hard
But, hillbilly music, nonetheless. The resigned, harsh & flatly nasal
vocals, the guitar - interposing bass runs into a skipping strummed
accompaniment - everything about Dust Bowl Ballads fairly reeks of the
earliest days of country music. Except, that is, to urban audiences in
search of "genuine" folk-protest - who'd never heard country music
outside of a Roy Rogers' film. That is, if they'd even heard of them….
Bob Dylan got much of his start here. Feedtime, on their last album,
drew "Vigilante Man" from within. And all of us, almost certainly,
learned "Dusty Old Dust" sometime, amidst the aesthetic aridity of
school musical classes.
Or, as it's more usually known…
So Long, It's Been Good to Know Yuh,
This dusty old dust is a gettin' our home,
And I've got to be driftin' along…
Just maybe, you should hear how Woody did it.
John Henry Calvinist