Another Super Group Resurrects Guthrie’s Timeless Voice

by | Mar 2, 2012

Have you heard New Multitudes, a super group made of Americana torchbearers: Jay Farrar (Son Volt), Will Johnson (Centro-matic), Anders Parker (Varnaline), and Jim James (My Morning Jacket)?

The group’s new record is an intimate interpretation of Woody Guthrie’s previously unrecorded lyrics.

Parker, who I had the honor of interviewing in Sept. 2008, described his own and the band’s process in the Burlington Free Press:

It’s a distinct and singular honor to be involved in this project. Visiting the archives would’ve been enough. But setting Woody’s words to music has been a fundamentally life-altering experience. His words and music and the life he led are an inspiration, and the vibrancy of his being still resonates and shines. He’s a beacon.

New Multitudes cut some amazing tracks on this record. Parker writes about how natural it all was. You can hear it on “Old L.A.” and other tracks. The music sounds free and easy. It also sounds timeless, like the Eagles could have recorded the song in the 1970s or perhaps, Dawes today.

Of course, Billy Bragg and Wilco made two albums of unrecorded Woodie Guthrie songs in 1998 and 2000 respectively, and both Mermaid Avenue editions are stellar works at the very top of many an audiophile’s pile.

How many more albums will be pulled from the Guthrie slush pile? As many as humanly possible, I hope. When I posted the Burlington Free Press article on Facebook, my friend Kate replied, “Woody was the musical poet for the unions. We need to sing his songs again — for the good of men, women, children and our Mother Earth.”