Woody Guthrie & Leadbelly Folkways: The Original Vision

In some ways, this is where the whole Americana thing begins. Sure, the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers were there too, but as far as creating a body of work that influenced the 20th Century songbook the most, few others can stand alongside Woody and Leadbelly. This collection gathers performances of many standards that have been covered in every conceivable way. For that reason alone, it is fascinating to hear the original versions in a form that first inspired Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and countless others. It’s easy to feel that same power today listening to Guthrie’s warbling passion in "Pastures of Plenty,” or the desperation that Leadbelly conjured in "In the Pines,” that no one other than Kurt Cobain has been able to replicate. However, what comes through most clearly in these songs is the skill that both Guthrie and Leadbelly shared in relating the hypocrisy within American society. For this reason they remain controversial figures, but it’s hard not to relate to how Leadbelly spits out phrases like "so-called friend” in "Gallis Pole,” or how Guthrie exalts the outlaw Pretty Boy Floyd, or questions the logic of vigilantes. Although it’s easy to find good compilations for both of these artists, few can top The Original Vision in both sound quality, and for presenting the essential songs. (Smithsonian Folkways)