News & Reviews
Happy 100th Birthday, Woody!
Joel Rafael Band, "Woodeye: Songs of Woody Guthrie"
Joel Rafael Band, Inside Recordings IR71412, 2003
Reviewed by Gary Taylor - KWMV - FM 95.9
Every summer, in the long ago, we would travel south to visit family in Tulsa and I'd go fishing in the crystal clear water of Spavinaw Creek with my grandfather while my grandmother would talk about barite roses, the best way to fry a chicken, and Oklahoma's favorite sons, humorist Will Rogers and folk singer Woody Guthrie.
Woodrow Wilson "Woody" Guthrie was born 100 years ago this year (July 14th). So let the celebrations begin! As is well known, he was a strong influence on Dylan, Springsteen, Paxton, and Ochs, just to name a few. While the recordings of Woody Guthrie are known <
mainly from the four volume Moses Asch recordings, the reality is that even many folkies don't know all that many of his songs. So anyone who gives his songs new life is to be given a tip of the hat, especially if a whole album is devoted to these historic gems. Maybe no one has a better sense of Woody than San Diego's Joel Rafael. A regular at the annual Woody Guthrie Festival held in Woody's birthplace of Okemah, Oklahoma, he has recorded several CDs of Guthrie's songs, smoothing out the rough edges of the original
recordings yet still retaining a reverent sense of their history. The first of these was "Woodeye" on Jackson Browne's independent Inside Recordings label.
This is a nice mix of better known songs like "Deportee" and "Pretty Boy Floyd" as well as lesser known songs like "When the Curfew Blows" and "1913 Massacre". Other notables are "Rambling Round" co-written by Ledbelly and "Dance a Little Longer" with Guthrie's lyrics set to music by Rafael, a la Billy Bragg and Wilco. Closing out the album just right is Rafael's own composition "Talking Oklahoma Hills". This CD will take you back to the red dirt hills of Oklahoma - even if you've never been.
Woody Guthrie and his songs will continue to be featured on KWMV's "Friday at the Coffee House", especially as we enter his centennial year. Maybe we'll even play "Talking Fishing Blues" off this CD for my grandfather. He used to like that one.
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