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Muleskinner Blues: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 2
Genres: Country, Folk, Pop
The songs on this recording, the second in a series of four, represent a selection from the vast storehouse of American folk and country songs that Woody Guthrie learned and incorporated into his early radio career and son... more »
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The songs on this recording, the second in a series of four, represent a selection from the vast storehouse of American folk and country songs that Woody Guthrie learned and incorporated into his early radio career and song books he sold on the air. In the early 1940s, upon coming to New York, Guthrie and frequent partner Cisco Houston recorded hundreds of songs for Folkways Records founder Moses Asch (160 alone in 1944). This series represents the best of these historic recordings. Muleskinner Blues highlights the non-original material that Guthrie recorded for Asch and includes American folk song standards, many of which became part of the American folk song canon due to Guthrie's influence. Running time 67 min, 40-page booklet includes historical and biographical notes on Woody Guthrie. Compiled and annotated by Jeff Place and Guy Logsdon. "Monumental stuff" --CMJ New Music Report
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One of the best
Howard Sauertieg | Harrisburg, PA USA | 08/30/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this CD to complete the Asch set of 4, not especially enthusiastic about it because I knew that none of the compositions were penned by Guthrie. I'm not sure what I was expecting, exactly - maybe square dance tunes and cornball folk songs. In fact, the disc attests to Guthrie's excellent taste in "traditional" music. These songs are memorable, funny, melancholy, weird and delightful, among other things - here is simplicity without schmaltz or stupidity. Guthrie's performances are generally adequate, often inspired, and some tracks offer rare opportunities to hear Woody play the fiddle! Of all the Asch recordings, this disc is the most fun through and through - a Dust Bowl Bacchanale."
The songs that influenced Guthrie...
ewomack | MN USA | 03/10/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Woody Guthrie influenced loads of singers, songwriters, folk singers, poets, activists, and storytellers. In turn, he also had his own influences. When he popped onto planet earth in 1912, nineteenth century culture, with its vast repertoire of popular songs and stories, still lingered in people's everyday lives. Some of the songs Guthrie grew up with date back to that previous looming century, and he recorded many of them later in life. This second volume of Moses Asch recordings compiles some of these songs as well as other traditional songs Guthrie picked up in his wanderings throughout the 1930s. Many of them also showed up on his popular California radio shows. Guthrie penned none of the tunes on this disc, but he arranged most of them to his own style and added his own lyrical touches here and there. Nonetheless, his indefatigable style shines on every track.
The title track, "Muleskinner Blues", shows Guthrie taking on a Jimmie Rodgers song (also known as "Blue Yodel #8). But Guthrie, unlike Rodgers, rarely yodeled (though he yodels with gusto on "Bed on the Floor"). The stylings of the immensely popular Carter family instead influenced his development. And many of Guthrie's early melodies came from Carter family compositions. Folk music tended to work this way. Tunes and lyrics radiated through the multitudinous regional music scenes scattered throughout the country. The composers and origins of some songs remain forever obscured in murky mystery. But some musicians won writer's rights through the legal system. Recording technology truly changed music forever. Guthrie came of age in this era, and so borrowed many songs and tunes for his own purpose. This wasn't unusual.
Some of the songs nonetheless do possess recorded histories. "Who's Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet" traces back to a Scottish ballad from the 1790s. And the heartstring tuggers "Stepstone" and "Put my Little Shoes Away" date to 1880 and 1873 respectively. Some songs have eyebrow raising origins. "Take a Whiff on Me" comes from an era, according to the CD booklet, "...when opium and cocaine could be purchased at the drug store, and songs about cocaine, like 'Rye Whiskey' about alcohol, were known nationally." The song celebrates the sharing of a good snort between pals. Times change.
Guthrie also played fiddle, but his skills apparenly remained somewhat unremarkable on this particular instrument. Three tracks nonetheless feature Guthrie's fiddling: the rousing "Sally Goodin'", "Hen Cackle", and "Rye Straw".
Accompanying Guthrie on many of these tracks is Cisco Houston (Guthrie even backs Houston on the Biblical "Sowing on the Mountain"). Their long partnership lasted for over a decade and helped spread the popularity of folk music. The influence of these songs on them, and their subsequent influence on twentieth century music remains incalculable. Out of this era evolved country, folk, and eventually rockabilly. Most modern music has its roots in folk music and African-American spirituals. This great collection of songs emphasizes the folk side of the spectrum, though many of these songs do originate from spirituals ("Little Black Train", "Bed on the Floor", "Stackolee", "Crawdad Song", and the haunting "Train 45"). Though most know that Guthrie influenced such twentieth century musical giants as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, this CD offers a rare and underappreciated glimpse at the songs that influenced Guthrie."