Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Woody Guthrie: This Land Is Your Land: The Asch Recordings Vol. 1 [Smithsonian/Folkways, 1997]
The godfather as protean wordslinger on a digitally-remastered-from-original-acetates recanonization, 27 tracks (including three songs on Early Masters) that honor his verbal genius. With his sidekick chiming in only occasionally, Woody's flat vocal affect diminishes the apparent variety of simple tunes a more inspired singer might have made seem classic; it's only after you learn to identify the voice with the lyrics that it does seem classic, and even then it wears considerable over 72 minutes. The songs, however, do not. Jeff Place and Guy Logsdon have conceived an introduction perfect enough to accommodate obscurities and surprises, as it should with a man who could lay down 55 titles in a day. So there are half a dozen public-domain touchstones for context and melodic range, two wild talking blues unreleased since 1964, two children's songs I now consider among his best of any sort, a Lindbergh dis so scathing I want to research the America First movement and find out who "Wheeler, Clark, and Nye" were, a Lincoln Brigade anthem so maudlin I hope Franco was as bad as I thought. Three additional volumes are planned. But this keeper comes first for a reason. A