Sings The Songs Of Woody Guthrie
CD: Vanguard CD VMD2131 (on CD spine)
Or VRS-9089, old mono LP number on front of CD
LP: Vanguard 9089 (mono) 1961
LP: Vanguard 2131 (stereo) 1963
This was almost certainly the best-selling, best-loved Cisco LP. Released in stereo on the Vanguard label before Cisco's death, and while Woody was languishing in the hospital with his terminal case of Chorea (he died in 1967). Catalogue number VSD-2131 (with "A" and "B" added to distinguish between sides one and two. The lower catalogue numbers are N80Y-8664 for side one, and 8665 for side two. On this record, there is yet a THIRD code number: "xsv 144243" for side one, and 244 for side two. (One wonders why all this numbering was necessary.) The 18 Guthrie songs were divided up into four "sections" -- titled "This Land" and "Curley Headed Babies" on side one, and "Big Men" and "Lone Wolves" on side two. It's an unneeded guide, but perhaps Cisco wanted it that way. This one, of course, has been re-issued on compact disc. One hopes it will be forever "in print."
- Pastures Of Plenty
- (My daddy flies a) Ship in the Sky
- Deportees (Plural, not singular)
- Grand Coulee Dam
- Sinking of the Reuben James
The label credits Martin Hoffman with writing the music for "Deportees." Fred Hellerman is credited with writing the last verse of "Reuben James." Paul Campbell is credited as co-writer of "Taking It Easy."
What can I say? If you love Cisco, you must own this. If you like Woody, you must own this. If you enjoy folk music, you must own this. One can quibble as to whether some of these performances were "over-produced" or not, but the bottom line is that Cisco is in fine voice, his guitar rings out true, the songs are some of Woody's best, Cisco was in on the creation (uncredited) of several of them. Some people just can't warm up to Woody's own voice and pickin', and for them, these versions by Cisco were essential to forming an appreciation of Woody's genius.
There are five performances on here that should be on any collection of Greatest Folk Performances: Pretty Boy Floyd (compare this to Joan Baez's shrieking version available on The Greatest Songs Of Woody Guthrie); Buffalo Skinners (if this doesn't sound like a 100 year old song I don't know what does); Do Re Mi (the classic Depression song, sung by a guy who sounds as if he knows firsthand); Deportees (the essence of folk music, the downtrodden and abused); and Sinking of the Reuben James (which makes the loss of life a tragedy but not a maudlin spectacle.) Other fine songs are here, but these alone make it worth far more than its modest price. Cisco was the definitive interpreter of Woody's music, not just because they were friends for many years, but because he gets inside these tales. These are not performances as songs are currently performed, with some god or goddess acting as if they are downtrodden, rough-and-tumble, or broke. No, these versions live and breathe Woody's emotions, and the emotions of millions of Americans who loved their country, worried about its policies, bravely fought its wars, and looked forward hopefully to a better world a comin'.
The notes reproduce the original notes from the LP, capturing Cisco's heartfelt appreciation of Woody. A good man describing another good man. One line especially worthy of note:
"Nowhere in Woody's work will you find the 'I was born to lose' whimpering so common to commercial hillbilly tunes." These are tales of the hard working, patriotic, and staunch people politicians claim to care for but Woody and Cisco truly knew and loved.
To see the full notes, click Here.
See an ad for the LP from the Sing Out! tribute Here.