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Woody Guthrie: The Asch Recordings
by Woody Guthrie

The Asch Recordings Vol. 1-4: Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie was one of the 20th century's greatest poets and songwriters.  Moses Asch was an idealistic, workaholic record-company owner who could be found in his small office/studio at all hours of the day or night and had a great respect for really creative artists, whether they were commercially viable or not.  He and Guthrie made and documented history together in a vibrant moment that is brought to life in this boxed set, WOODY GUTHRIE, THE ASCH RECORDINGS VOLUMES 1-4.  Guthrie rarely let a week go by without hammering out poetry, songs, rambling letters to friends, articles, diatribes and books on his manual typewriter.  Hating conformity and distrusting authority, he would come to the studio when he felt like it -- often bringing his friend Cisco Houston along, and sometimes a larger group including Pete Seeger, Lead Belly, and Sonny Terry.  The songs they sang there included some of the oldest folk songs in America, some of the newest and most powerful topical songs from Guthrie's typewriter, and some of the funniest and oddest songs you will ever hear.

Each CD in this set has a different emphasis, and together they are a powerful statement about Woody Guthrie the man and Moses Asch the producer.  They are also the richest and most representative set of Woody Guthrie recordings ever assembled -- carefully selected, lovingly remastered, and richly annotated by Jeff Place and Guy Logsdon.  VOLUME 1 presents many of what have become Guthrie's best-known songs; VOLUME 2 is a selection of the more traditional folk music repertory Guthrie had learned and made his own over the years; VOLUME 3 is selected from the enormous number of songs he wrote about current events; and VOLUME 4 presents songs about cowboys, outlaws and other western themes.

Anarchistic, wildly creative artistic geniuses are all too rare in this world.  Even more rarely do they encounter a supporter who carefully collects and preserves their art.  Guthrie's sharp, humorous, angry, quirky genius shines through in this sessions with Moses Asch.  Asch carefully preserved the masters, and the Smithsonian Institution presents the best of them to the public as they have never been heard before.

The year 2000 ushers in the re-release of the historic Moe Asch recordings on the Smithsonian Folkways label.  This 4-CD box set includes just about all the recordings Woody ever did for Folkways in the mid-1940s. Click to purchase the 4 disc collection.

  • THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND, THE ASCH RECORDINGS, VOL.1
    27 tracks including many of Guthrie's best-known original songs.  Features the first-ever recording of Guthrie's anthem "This Land is Your Land" (with never before issued lyrics) and other famous Guthrie songs like "Grand Coulee Dam" and "Philadelphia Lawyer."
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  • MULE SKINNER BLUES, THE ASCH RECORDINGS, VOL.2
    These 25 tracks were culled from the 160 songs that Guthrie recorded with Cisco Houston and other musicians for Moses Asch in March and April 1944.  This CD focuses on non-original material that Guthrie recorded for Asch, including American folk song standards, many of which became part of the folk song canon because of Guthrie's influence.  Heard here are selections from the vast storehouse of the folk tradition such as "Stackolee," "Worried Man Blues," and "Wreck of the Old 97" -- songs that Guthrie learned and incorporated into his early radio career and into the song books he sold on these live broadcasts.  Contains three previously unreleased performances.
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  • HARD TRAVELIN', THE ASCH RECORDINGS, VOL.3
    This album presents 27 mostly topical songs written by Woody Guthrie.  Many previously unreleased songs provide commentary on labor martyrs, the war, the Dust Bowl, and the Bonneville Dam, written during the 1930s and 1940s.  The tracks include Guthrie's well-known ballads ("Hard Travelin," "1913 Massacre," "Mean Talking Blues") as well as more obscure unfinished projects and examples from his examples from his remaking of the "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam" and his series of songs of Hanukkah.
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  • BUFFALO SKINNERS, THE ASCH RECORDINGS, VOL.4
    This album includes 26 original compositions and traditional songs with western themes comprise the 74-minute CD, which boasts six previously unreleased tracks and accompaniment by Cisco Houston on ten tracks.  This volume emphasizes Guthrie's Oklahoman roots.  Songs about cowboys and outlaws include "Billy the Kid," "Pretty Boy Floyd" and "I ride an Old Paint."

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