Woody Guthrie - This Land Is Your Land: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 1 (Cover Artwork)

Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie: This Land Is Your Land: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 1This Land Is Your Land: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 1 (1997)
Smithsonian Folkways

Reviewer Rating: 4.5

Contributed by: SumWonSumWon
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Okay, so Woody Guthrie *might* not be a punk, and you can't get much more mainstream than writing a song that becomes an alternate national anthem, but gosh darnit I'm going to review this album anyways (also, Joe Strummer used to go by Woody in tribute, which should in itself extinguish all questio.
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Okay, so Woody Guthrie *might* not be a punk, and you can't get much more mainstream than writing a song that becomes an alternate national anthem, but gosh darnit I'm going to review this album anyways (also, Joe Strummer used to go by Woody in tribute, which should in itself extinguish all questions).

This Land Is Your Land: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 1 is a compilation of many of Woody's most celebrated songs throughout his career. A folk singer at his prime in the 1940s, much of his inspiration for his songs came from the suffering he witnessed and experienced during the Dust Bowl, a series of grueling dust storms in the Great Plains in the mid-1930s that severely affected the area's agricultural prospects. Now that the history lesson is over (thanks for bearing with me), I'll move on to the actual review. I'll only delve into a few select tracks, as there are nearly thirty on the disc. Besides, everyone knows his musical style (I hope): nasal vocal tone, full-chord strum, and the occasional harmonica accompaniment.

The album begins with "This Land Is Your Land," the aforementioned anthem. This version is solid, although it doesn't contain the controversial verse. This omission really disappointed me, as it truly is a poignant criticism of American greed as exhibited through property rights back when such a thing was quite unusual. Fortunately though, another version of the song (the second of three) appearing later on in the album does contain the verse. For those unfamiliar, it goes a little somethin' like this:

I roamed and rambled and followed my footsteps / To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts / All around me her voice was sounding / This land was made for you and me / There was a big high wall there / That tried to stop me / The sign was painted / It said ??private property' / But on the backside / It didn't say nothing / This land was made for you and me
Moving on a few tracks we have a cover of a Goebel Reeves song called "Hobo's Lullaby." Here, the singer empathizes with a hobo who is fortunate enough to have a boxcar to sleep in on a given night. This is something Woody undoubtedly had experience with himself, and listening to him sing this makes me feel like I am right beside him on a boxcar in the mid-`40s, hitchin' aimlessly through the country. This is a great song, and it is rumored that it was Woody's favorite song ever. The singer calls to the hobo:
Go to sleep you weary hobo / Let the towns drift slowly by / Can't you hear the steel rail humming / That's a hobo's lullaby / Do not think about tomorrow / Let tomorrow come and go / Tonight you're in a nice warm boxcar / Safe from all the wind and snow
Following "Hobo's Lullaby" is "Pastures of Plenty," another fantastic cut. The song, originally appearing on his classic Ballads from the Dust Bowl, is an angry yet hopeful assertion of how the migrant workers of the 1940s will rise up and return the land to the masses rather than continue to slave for the few. Woody proclaims:
Every state in the Union us migrants have been / We'll work in this fight and we'll fight till we win / It's always we rambled, that river and I / All along your green valley, I will work till I die / My land I'll defend with my life if need be / Cause my pastures of plenty must always be free
The last song I'll mention is "Do Re Mi." Another song about the struggles associated with the Dust Bowl, this number attacks the American value system of money over human life. People in the thick of the Dust Bowl would leave for California where a better life could be obtained, only to be turned away or neglected their humanity for not having enough money.
If you ain't got the do re mi, folks, you ain't got the do re mi / You better get back to beautiful Texas, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee / California is a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see / But believe it or not, you won't find it so hot / If you ain't got the do re mi
I have at this point covered my personal favorites from the first half of the album, and there are many more great songs ahead that would simply be excessive to explore. Woody Guthrie is certainly an acquired taste, especially for the 30-and-under crowd, many of whom likely think of him as ancient. The messages underlying the circumstances of his songs are timeless, however, and they will grow on you if you give them the opportunity. I highly recommend this for those who dont mind warming up to an album and for those who like to take a break from the distortion pedal every once in awhile.


People who liked this also liked:
Chuck Ragan - Feast or FamineJack Boulware / Silke Tudor - Gimme Something Better [book]Fang - Landshark / Where the Wild Things AreDevo - Something for EverybodyDevils Brigade - Devils BrigadeBlatz - Cheaper Than the Beer [7-inch reissue]Articles of Faith - New Normal Catastrophe [12-inch]Igloo Tornado - Henry & Glenn Forever [comic book]Th' Inbred - Legacy of FertilityThe Leftovers - Eager to Please

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Anonymous (August 13, 2007)

yea it is PUNKnews. it isnt punkreviews though.

Anonymous (August 12, 2007)

i thought this was PUNKnews, not boringrepetitiveacousticnews

Anonymous (August 10, 2007)

Wait so this album gets the same star rating as some dumbass pop punk records? Stupid.

People who try to claim Woody was a "punk" are also a bit dim. Punk is a particular genre of music they have no claim on rebellion or anti-government opinions.

Anonymous (August 9, 2007)

woody looks like a young sean penn in that picture.

who really listens to/has this album on this website anyways?

boring shit. let this corpse rot.

salsashark (August 8, 2007)

Quadruple LOLs at that last comment. People are stupid.

Anonymous (August 7, 2007)

why the fuck is this garbage being reviewed? let this corpse rot.

ChokingVictim (August 7, 2007)

amazing songwriter

Anonymous (August 7, 2007)

It's all about Pretty Boy Floyd

Anonymous (August 7, 2007)

wow three reviews in a row. this somewon must give amazing head.

greg0rb (August 7, 2007)

Great review of a great collection for a great songwriter. As an elementary music teacher, I try to do Guthrie songs with my classes as much as possible because as far as his kid's songs go, they are cooler than most kids songs. I've done This Land is Your Land with my kids at a veteran's day program, and while most people in the crowd wouldn't know, I do explain some of it's background to the kids when we learn it. Car Song is a great little kids song too. Also, read Bound for Glory... it's pretty awesome.

Anonymous (August 7, 2007)

Absolutely essential. And definitely review Ziggy.


tommytumult (August 7, 2007)

I just finished readying a biography on Woody, good stuff. Thanks for reviewing this and possibly getting more people interested in him. I tried to get a few of my friends to listen to him, but they wrote him off as only writing children's songs because "isn't 'This Land is Your Land' for kids?" I think it means that Woody wins, though, when kids learn that song before they learn that bullshit "God Bless the USA" song everyone sings in the 7th inning at baseball games now. Favorite song: So Long, It's Been Good To Know Ya

T-Rock (August 7, 2007)

This is awesome. I'm reviewing Phil Ochs this week or the next. Count on it.

Anonymous (August 7, 2007)

A guy with just a guitar bluntly singing political anthems when no one else will speak up is about as punk as it gets, really. Not to mention that Guthrie is one of the best American songwriters of all time.

Torgo (August 7, 2007)

Woody is badass. Rejoice.

lushj (August 7, 2007)

This also has "Lindbergh" in which he calls out Charles Lindbergh and America First for being fascist sympathisers. That was well known, of course, but (for the time) it was pretty blunt. It seems like a lot of the labor & lefty songs used stories or legends as metaphors instead of talking about exactly who they meant.

Among all of the confusing array of Woody Guthrie collections out there, this has done me well as a good primer, with liner notes and enough information that I can choose to go further into the genre or just stop here (I stopped, pretty much).

ihateallofyou (August 7, 2007)

woody is hard to listen to, even if he did pretty much start DIY.

GlassPipeMurder (August 7, 2007)

i had a shortlived woody guthrie phase in high school. dude was quite a punx for his day.

feeeding5000 (August 7, 2007)

Wait...we can review things that have only a spiritual relation to punk, rather than musical? Oh, shit, I hafta review me some Ziggy Stardust now.

Oh, yeah, great review, SumWon.

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