Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly, Folkways: The Original Vision: Songs of Woody Guthrie And Lead Belly

Peter Blackstock

By Peter Blackstock

on 07.06.11 in Reviews
Two 20th-century legends creating valuable context and contrast

Originally issued in 1989 after the death of Folkways label founder Moses Asch and reissued in 2005 with six extra tracks, this hybrid release marked the debut of Folkways’ new lease on life under the Smithsonian umbrella. While just one of the songs, the closing track “We Shall Be Free,” actually features both Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly together, the record’s pairing of two 20th-century legends creates valuable context and contrast. In many respects, Guthrie’s and Huddie Ledbetter’s versions of American folk music are different sides of the same coin — both very much of the earth and grounded in country and blues, respectively, in a manner that naturally distilled into a hybrid country-blues. Will Geer’s mid-record recitation introducing Guthrie’s “Hard Traveling” is a sort of populist mission statement that could apply to both artists: “I’m out to sing songs that’ll prove to you that this is your world.”