“Dust Bowl Ballads, Volume 2” by Woody Guthrie - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1940Album Chart of the Decade: 1940s

TJR says

With him having built up a strong repertoire over the preceding years, RCA got the maximum benefit when they fluked an album set from America’s most talented folk poet of the era. Any old folkie would have done for their commissioner – but they were in the right place at the right time to be offered the chance to record Woody. They got 14 songs from two sessions in April and May 1940 – enough to select 12 to make 2 triple disc sets of 78 shellac records. Volume 2, released simultaneously with Volume 1 in early July, was another devastatingly effective set from the outsiders’ champion, a true working class hero. In a column he wrote for the “People’s World” (a Communist newspaper of the day), Woody opined: “The Grapes of Wrath,” you know is about us pullin’ out of Oklahoma and Arkansas, and down south, and a driftin’ around over (to the) state of California, busted, disgusted, down and out, and a lookin’ for work. Shows you how come us to be that a way. Shows the dam bankers men that broke us and the dust that choked us, and comes right out in plain old English and says what to do about it. It says you got to get together and have some meetins, and stick together, and raise old billy hell till you get your job, and get your farm back, and your house and your chickens and your groceries and your clothes, and your money back. Go to see “Grapes of Wrath,” pardner, go to see it and don’t miss.”

The Great Dust Storm” and “Dusty Old Dust” paint the picture straight from the off: “On the 14th day of April of 1935, there struck the worst of dust storms that ever filled the sky. You could see that dust storm comin', the cloud looked deathlike black, and through our mighty nation, it left a dreadful track. From Oklahoma City to the Arizona line, Dakota and Nebraska to the lazy Rio Grande, It fell across our city like a curtain of black rolled down, We thought it was our judgement, we thought it was our doom.”

“A dust storm hit, an' it hit like thunder, it dusted us over, an' it covered us under, Blocked out the traffic an' blocked out the sun, straight for home all the people did run… so long, it's been good to know yuh. This dusty old dust is a-gettin' my home, and I got to be driftin' along.”

Howard Taubman in The New York Times, was highly astute with his instantaneous review at the time: “These albums are not a summer sedative. They make you think; they may even make you uncomfortable…. The albums show that the phonograph is broadening its perspective, and that life as some of our unfortunates know it can be mirrored on the glistening disks.” It wasn't just RCA; the world at large got lucky when Woody was finally unleashed via the “Dust Bowl Ballads”. These are the folk records by which folk records should be measured.

The Jukebox Rebel

A [03:21] 9.3.png Woody Guthrie - The Great Dust Storm (Woody Guthrie) Folk
B [03:09] 9.2.png Woody Guthrie - Dusty Old Dust (Woody Guthrie) Folk
C [03:08] 7.8.png Woody Guthrie - Dust Bowl Refugee (Woody Guthrie) Folk
D [03:23] 9.2.png Woody Guthrie - Vigilante Man (Woody Guthrie) Folk
E [02:46] 8.1.png Woody Guthrie - I Ain’t Got No Home In This World Anymore (Woody Guthrie) Folk
F [02:43] 7.7.png Woody Guthrie - Dust Pneumonia Blues (Woody Guthrie) Folk

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