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CD review
WoodyBoye Appleseed Recordings

Sing Out!, Vol. 49, No. 3, p. 137
FALL 2005

On Woodeye, the first volume in the Joel Rafael Band's tribute to Woody Guthrie released three years ago, most of the songs were familiar Guthrie standards. On this follow-up, though, many of the songs are much more obscure, including several previously unheard songs from the Woody Guthrie Archives that Joel set to music himself and also one of Joel's own songs in the Guthrie tradition. The band also includes a couple of songs that have become associated with Guthrie but that he didn't actually write including "This Train Is Bound for Glory" and "Stepstone," which Joel performs on the CD in a lovely collaboration with Jackson Browne, Arlo Guthrie and Jimmy LaFave.

Of the lyrical material that Joel set to music, highlights include "Ramblin' Reckless Hobo," "Dance Around My Atom Fire," "Your Sandal String," and "Love Thyself." "Ramblin' Reckless Hobo" is a short ballad about the undoing of a hobo who leaves home, lands at the bottom of a bottle and is ultimately undone by turning to crime. "Dance Around My Atom Fire," is from early in the atomic age and has Woody wondering if the new technology will be used in the destruction of the world. "Your Sandal String" is addressed to Jesus that is the strongest expression of Christian faith that I've ever seen in a Woody Guthrie song, and "Love Thyself" encourages people to affirm their own belief in themselves.

There are also a couple of songs here attributed solely to Woody that I'd never heard before. "Heaven My Home," is another strong expression of Christian faith and "Circle of Truth" is a cowboy ballad. Jowl's own song in the set is "Sierra Blanca Massacre," a tragic song in the Guthrie tradition of "Deportees." With this CD, Joel affirms his place among those who are building on, and expanding, the legacy of Woody Guthrie.

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