Woody G. Keeps On Keepin’ On

by | Sep 2, 2007

“We discovered a different Woody Guthrie in the archives from the one everyone thinks they know. Woody Guthrie is seen by most Americans, if they know him at all, as a Dust Bowl troubadour, a political activist and a hobo from the ’30s. You wouldn’t think he could write lyrics about flying saucers, Ingrid Bergman and Christ for president. But he did, and that gave us the nerve to come up with music that’s different from what everyone expects.” -Billy Bragg

There’s an article in today’s Sunday Times about Woody’s daughter, Nora, 57, and her efforts to find new collaborators to breathe musical life into some of her father’s 2400 unpublished lyrics.

Guthrie said that the success of the Mermaid Avenue albums with Bragg and Wilco whetted her appetite for more. Since then, she’s invited punk band The Dropkick Murphys, kelzmer band The Klezmatics, German cabaret outfit Wenzel, Delta bluesman Corey Harris, Texas campfire singers Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and classical musician David Amram to compose new music for her dad’s songs.

Currently writing with Guthrie are Lou Reed, jazz bassist Rob Wasserman, cabaret satirist Nellie McKay, folk rapper Michael Franti and the alt-country artist Jay Farrar (formerly of Wilco).

The Times also notes that a new live recording–The Live Wire: Woody Guthrie in Performance 1949–will be released this week on CD. This historical recording was captured by Peter Paul Braverman, a student at Rutgers, owned a wire recorder — a device that magnetized sound onto stainless steel wire. On a whim he lugged his equipment to Fuld Hall in Newark on a December evening in 1949 to check out a folk singer he had just heard about. With a few dozen other listeners, Mr. Braverman heard Guthrie’s wife, Marjorie, lead her husband through give-and-take interviews about his childhood in the Oklahoma Territory, his Dust Bowl migration to California, his work on the Bonneville Dam project in Washington State and his current life in New York.