By Hans-Eckardt Wenzel
the tradition of Mermaid Avenue, Nora Guthrie invited German award
winning singer/songwriter Hans-Eckardt Wenzel to visit the Woody
Guthrie Archives and put music to previously unpublished Woody Guthrie
lyrics. The astounding result was Ticky Tock: Wenzel Sings Woody Guthrie. A great collection of 14 Woody Guthrie lyrics sung in a
way that will blow your mind.
Guthrie's liner notes, she states, "Ticky Tock yanks our eyes away from the old caricature
and points us to a fresh oasis, inspiring a new curiosity. Woody,
and his songs, are lifted up out of the dusty pages and thrown back
out into the street where they belong because my father's songs
are always street songs and street people's words. It's truly amazing
for me now to watch these two new friends, Wenzel and Woody, rambling
together along streets of Germany. I am grateful that they have
let me tag along so I can listen in on what they have to say to
Wenzel recorded the album in both German and English, and he premiered
two songs from the album at the Nashville Sings Woody Guthrie concert at the Ryman Auditorium
as part of a celebration of Woody's 90th Anniversary.
1. Been Down the River Too Long
2. Dust Bowl Refugee
3. He And She
4. Been Out On An Ocean Trip
5. If I Was Everything on Earth
6. Every 100 Years
7. Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust
8. I Don't Feel At Home on the Bowery No More
9. Ticky Tock
10. I Like to Stay Home With Daddy
11. Blue Eyes
12. Jinga Linnng
13. Ninety Mile Wind
14. Blow, Big Wind
TOCK Reviewed by SING OUT MAGAZINE
Read Nora Guthrie's Liner Notes
Hear Neda Ulaby's NPR report on Wenzel and Ticky Tock
a clip of Wenzel at the Kennedy Center's Millenium Stage
process of defoliating the phantom icon of Woody Guthrie results
in adding much new information to the already well known aspects
of Guthrie's oeuvre. One day, Wenzel and Billy Bragg will belong
to the classics of this genre and their successors will follow with
interpretations we can't even dream of today. This song is my song,
this song is your song, this song is Woody's, Nora's, Billy's, Wenzel's
- everyone's song." (Folker!, issue January
Ticky Tock project is a compelling example of Woody Guthrie's songs
transcending time and space.
Wenzel brings inventive musical arrangements with musical touchstones
that leap from Kurt Weill to Tom Waits to Bragg/Wilco, and a charmingly
playful, engaging presence to his performances of the songs in English
and German, and is able to shed new light on Guthrie's powerful
(Bill Bragin, Joe's Pub at The Public Theatre)
boundary-stretching performance from German cabaret-rock ensemble
(Chicago Tribune - February 7, 2003, Michael
composer and pianist Wenzel looked into Guthrie's writings and discovered
infectious techno-pop ride he called "Ticky Tock."
(CMT.com - February 2003, Edward Morris)
to Wenzel is like medicine. A useful, anti-depression medicine against
the time of ordinary moronism
Wenzel, sometimes loud, sometimes
tender, sometimes vicious and bitter, wanders between klezmer and
classic, between poetry and nonsense, between worldview and high
spirits, at once the clown between a hangover and a nervous breakdown."
"Clown Between Hangover and Nervous Breakdown"
music is demanding & malicious, dry cynical, often melancholy,
always direct and consequential.
Just like him, Klezmer, Jazz, Rock, Classic, Folk and even Punk
elements can be found in his music."
"Time of Lunatics and Idiots"
few years ago, having read through much of my father's unpublished
song lyrics, I decided I wasn't altogether comfortable with the
Woody Guthrie icon image being projected all around. I wasn't comfortable
because a lot of it wasn't true. I couldn't blame anyone. It's just
the way history falls in, or out, of public knowledge.
in an effort to try to begin setting the record straight, I started
looking around for musicians who knew they didn't know a lot about
Woody Guthrie, not musicians who thought they did know a lot about
Woody Guthrie. It's always easier to begin to go somewhere from
nowhere, rather than go all the way back from somewhere and start
all over again! To get to know Woody Guthrie, you only have to get
to know his songs. All of his thoughts and feelings about everything
are in his lyrics. There's about 3000 in all. So that's where I
usually begin, and end up.
met Wenzel in 2000 in Berlin. I went there with Billy Bragg to appear
at the Political Songwriter's Festival, performing songs from Mermaid
Avenue, a CD of Woody's unknown lyrics which Billy had set to music.
Wenzel and Billy were on the same show. I had gone into one of the
dressing rooms backstage to get a beer and instead I found this
guy (Wenzel) pulling up his pants! But that's another story....
that night, I got to watch him perform. I decided then that I would
look for an opportunity to work with him. At the time, I had no
thoughts about what or when that would be. Then a year later, I
discovered a little lyric called "Jinga Linnng." I could
actually hear Wenzel's singing....
year, I invited Wenzel to come to the Woody Guthrie Archives in
NYC. He poured over hundreds of unpublished lyrics which was an
amazing and exhausting feat in itself. Woody's lyrics are often
layered with meanings and history, particular to a time, place or
person. Dialects, idioms, slang, words unique to geographic areas,
jobs and ethnic groups abound! Even Guthrie-ites can find the language
noticed Wenzel had a particular talent for sniffing out lyrics filled
with political humor and double-entendre. Many of the lyrics he
liked seemed to be geared for children but underneath, were equally
poignant for adults. Other lyrics he was drawn to were tougher and
more assertive than many of Woody's more well known songs. And a
few were downright.... odd!
the whole point is to let others draw their own conclusions. I like
to let them tell me what kind of a man they find, what thoughts
they find, what feelings they find. And I let them tell me, through
their choice of lyrics and their music, what meaning Woody's words
might still have for us now. Good words have a lot of meaning. Great
words have deep meaning. A composer recognizes himself in either
of these and joins up with them to complete the portrait.
singing style and compositions speak in a distinctly "non American"
voice, using instruments and melodies that most American musicians
would not naturally connect to Woody Guthrie; a brass section complete
with tuba, bottles, bass and piano.These are hardly the sounds of
the American west, let alone the lone, acoustic tone of the "dust
bowl balladeer," as my father is fondly nicknamed back home.
Tock yanks our eyes away from the old characature and points us
to a fresh oasis, inspiring a new curiosity. Woody, and his songs,
are lifted up out of the dusty pages and thrown back out onto the
streets where they belong because my father's songs are always street
songs and street people's words. It's truly amazing for me now to
watch these two new friends, Wenzel and Woody, rambling together
along streets of Germany. I am grateful that they have let me tag
along so I can listen in on what they have to say to each other.
Out Magazine, Fall 2003
by Mike Regenstreif /
Vol. 47, No.3
part of her work directing the Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives,
Nora Guthrie, Woody's daughter has been working with various musicians
in finding musical settings for the thousands of unknown and unpublished
lyrics that she has found in the archives. German singer and composer
Hans-Eckardt Wenzel was an inspired choice as someone to work with
Woody's lyrics. This is an extraordinary album whose songs open
new windows into the depth of Woody's writings and the musical possibilities
they present. Imagine Woody Guthrie meets Bertolt Brecht and Kurt
Weill with some of the modern musical sensibilities of Tom Waits
and the Klezmatics.
are dates attached to some of these songs and they range from 1935,
when Woody was still in Pampa, Texas to 1953, when he was deeply
in the grip of Huntington's disease. It's fascinating to see, in
the earliest song, "If I Was Everything on Earth," that
Woody's class-conscious political analysis was already in place.
That class-consciousness informs several of the songs that Wenzel
has set to music including "I Don't Feel at Home on the Bowery
No More," an urban variation on what Woody was singing about
in his classic, "I Ain't Got No Home," and "Jinga
Linnng," a 1953 stream-of-consciousness piece that Wenzel gives
a klezmer setting.
couple of songs are Woody's rewrites of older folk songs. He wrote "Blue Eyes" which keeps the chorus from "I'm Thinking
Tonight of My Blue Eyes," from the point of view of a sailor
fighting World War II and longing for his love at home, while "Ashes
to Ashes, Dust to Dust," is based on "Hesitation Blues."
There are also several kids' songs including the hilarious "But
I Like to Stay Home with Daddy." One of the most moving songs
is "Ninety Mile Wind," about New York City that Woody
wrote in 1944, but whose lyrics seems like a metaphor for the events
arrangements are full of surprises and range from beautifully tender
to fiercely growling and feature instrumentation ranging from guitars
and pianos to percussion and brass bands. Three songs include some
spoken word counterpoint by Nora Guthrie. It should be noted that
Wenzel has recorded both English-language and German versions of
Ticky Tock. This review was based on the English version. -MR
T: 914-241-3844 /
Sansibar Kultur Management
Born in 1955 in Wittenberg (Germany), Hans-Eckardt Wenzel attended
the Humboldt University in Berlin to
study Cultural Science and Esthetics. Since 1981 he has toured as
a musician, author, actor, and director in Berlin. He began touring
with a band in 1999.
Heinrich Heine Preis-1990
Forderpreis des Deutschen Kleinkunstpreises der Stadt Mainz-1991
Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik-1994
Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik-2000
Liederpreis des SWR-2001
Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik-2001
Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik-2002
Ehrenantenne des Belgischen Rundfunks-2002
Hanswurst und andere arme Wurste-2001
Ticky Tock-Wenzel sings Woody Guthrie-2003
Lied vom wilden Mohn-Leipzig-1982
Antrag auf Verlangerung des Monats August, Gedichte-Leipzig-1987
Malinche. Legenden von Liebe und Verrat- Leipzig-1992