News & Reviews
Review: "Woody Guthrie at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center"
The new CD/DVD set is entitled Woody Guthrie at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center, but in fact, Woody never made it past 55. This document of an altogether lively concert program from a wide assortment of admirers proves, however, that his music has not only lasted 'til 100, but will likely survive us all. This is a celebration, yes, but a celebration with a conscience. A strong thread of morality and social awareness ran through all of Guthrie's songs, as he believed music could make a difference in America. That same belief is shared by the performers who took the stage of Washington, DC's Kennedy Center on October 14, 2012, including Joel Rafael, Jackson Browne, Rosanne Cash, Donovan, Judy Collins, Tom Morello, John Mellencamp and Ramblin' Jack Elliott. That evening, they showcased the spectrum of Guthrie's work from protest songs to children's sing-alongs.
As produced by Woody's daughter Nora Guthrie, Bob Santelli and Garth Ross, the concert is well-sequenced, beginning with the joyous barrage of nonsense lyrics in Old Crow Medicine Show's bluegrass-style "Howdi Do." The string band continues the jamboree with Guthrie's rapid-fire story of a "Union Maid" who's "stickin' to the union 'til the day I die," and indeed, Guthrie's commitment to the ideals of unionization recur throughout the program.
A major highlight is the mini-suite of songs thematically connected by imagery of the open road and the hobo, with contemporary folksinger Joel Rafael's harmonica-accompanied "Ramblin' Reckless Hobo" (for which he set Guthrie's lyrics to his own music), Jimmy LaFave's "Hard Travelin'," Donovan's "Riding in My Car" and Rosanne Cash's "I Ain't Got No Home." Listening to Rafael, it's hard not to hear a Bob Dylan influence, or more precisely, how Guthrie influenced Dylan and in turn, Rafael.
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