Various Artists: Woody Guthrie at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center

Folk, but not just for Morris Dancers.

Various Artists

Woody Guthrie at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center

Label: Legacy
US Release Date: 2013-06-18
UK Release Date: 2013-06-14

Woody Guthrie would be a pop star shaking his booty on MTV if he were here today. I doubt he would have been able to resist the allure of getting his songs beamed into a hundred million homes. He’d start out as a glam pop poet, friends with Bowie and T. Rex; change direction to dance music in the ‘80s (he got heavily into the rave scene for a while, and had to be pulled out of a bad situation by one of his ex-wives); recover in rehab and relaunch his career as a veteran rock-star, playing stadiums and football pitches. His duet with Beyoncé would be a big hit, and a number of coffee-table photography books of Guthrie at home/on tour were published. He was briefly associated with the Occupy Movement, and finally was popularly admitted as Governor of New Jersey. He was named after Woodrow Wilson; his life went full circle.

Of course this is conjecture, imagination; but these days Guthrie is rightly revered as one of the great icons of modern music. He didn’t create folk music, but it would have been a poorer place without him. Interest in Guthrie has rallied over the last 20 years or so, probably starting with Folkways: A Vision Shared back in 1988. Since then, archives have opened and numerous other projects have worked well, most particularly Mermaid Avenue and Man in the Sand. The reality is it’s like Guthrie's still here with us, and I’m certain that’s the way he’d like it.

Woody Guthrie at 100! Live At The Kennedy Center is the recording of a celebratory concert featuring an array of artists, the climax of a year of Guthrie centennial birthday events. It demonstrates why Guthrie would have been a pop star, and why he was not just a folk singer who’d appeal to the Morris Dancing posse; his songs in actuality are modern and varied, and can be interpreted through country and blues to pop and rock. There are songs for kids (Donovan sings “Riding In My Car”), a Dylan-esque delivery of “Ramblin’ Reckless Hobo” by Joel Rafael, and the hillbilly romp of “Hard Travelin’ (Jimmy LaFave). Roseanne Cash and John Leventhal contribute an emotional “I Ain’t Got No Home” and a straight storyteller’s version of “Pretty Boy Floyd”. If gospel’s your thing, Sweet Honey in the Rock provide an impassioned rendition of “I’ve Got To Know”.

Two of Guthrie’s most famous songs, “This Land Is Your Land” and “This Train Is Bound For Glory”, are rightly here community efforts--they are big songs, and suitable for a full cast. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, a contemporary of Guthrie’s, artfully renders “1913 Massacre”, reminding us Guthrie’s music was didactic, but you could still enjoy yourself whilst learning a lesson from the experience of others. John Mellencamp makes the point that he likes “what Woody stood for” before his take on Do Re Mi. Purists will appreciate the bluegrass interpretation of “So Long, It’s Been Good To Know Yuh” by the Del McCoury Band and “Union Maid” by Old Crow Medecine Show. Jackson Brown adds West Coast spin to “You Know The Night” and Ani DiFranco and Ry Cooder create just the right amount of Mexican light for “Deportee”. Guthrie’s guitar proudly declared that it killed fascists, and Tom Morello’s “Ease My Revolutionary Mind” excellently displays a potent mix of the personal and political. Judy Collins and Lucinda Williams both show Guthrie’s not just for the boys with “Pasture of Plenty” and “House of Earth”, respectively.

So it’s hard not to go wrong with this, because (as the fluffy marketing would say) it’s got something for everybody. If you’re interested in Woody Guthrie it’s a no-brainer, and if you’re interested in music you should almost automatically be interested in Woody. He wasn’t Elvis, but he could have been, and I bet they are now both tearing it up somewhere--wondering about all those royalties, but having a blast.





Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".


On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 1, Gang of Four to the Birthday Party

If we must #quarantine, at least give us some post-punk. This week we are revisiting the best post-punk albums of all-time and we kick things off with Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd., Throbbing Gristle, and more.


Alison Chesley Toils in Human and Musical Connectivity on Helen Money's 'Atomic'

Chicago-based cellist, Alison Chesley (a.k.a. Helen Money) creates an utterly riveting listen from beginning to end on Atomic.


That Kid's 'Crush' Is a Glittering Crossroads for E-Boy Music

That Kid's Crush stands out for its immediacy as a collection of light-hearted party music, but the project struggles with facelessness.


Percival Everett's ​​​'Telephone​​​' Offers a Timely Lesson

Telephone provides a case study of a family dynamic shaken by illness, what can be controlled, and what must be accepted.


Dream Pop's Ellis Wants to be 'Born Again'

Ellis' unhappiness serves as armor to protect her from despair on Born Again. It's better to be dejected than psychotic.


Counterbalance No. 10: 'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols'

The Spirit of ’77 abounds as Sex Pistols round out the Top Ten on the Big List. Counterbalance take a cheap holiday in other people’s misery. Right. Now.


'Thor: Ragnarok' Destroys and Discards the Thor Mythos

Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok takes a refreshingly iconoclastic approach to Thor, throwing out the old, bringing in the new, and packaging the story in a colourful, gorgeously trashy aesthetic that perfectly captures the spirit of the comics.


Alps 2 and Harry No Release Eclectic Single "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" (premiere)

Alps 2 and Harry NoSong's "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" is a dizzying mix of mangled 2-step rhythms and woozy tranquil electronics.


Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings Team for Wonderfully Sparse "Where Or When" (premiere)

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings' "Where Or When" is a wonderfully understated performance that walks the line between pop and jazz.


Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.