“Dust Bowl Ballads, Volume 1” by Woody Guthrie - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1940Album Chart of the Decade: 1940s

TJR says

John Steinbeck’s realist novel “The Grapes Of Wrath” was just over a year old by the time “Dust Bowl Ballads” saw release. Almost, quite literally, the aural equivalent, Woody’s songs tell of the folks driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, agricultural industry changes and bank foreclosures forcing tenant farmers out of work. Due to their nearly hopeless situation, and in part because they are trapped in the Dust Bowl, these folks set out for “The Garden of Eden” that was California. Along with thousands of other "Okies", they sought jobs, land, dignity, and a future. Woody Guthrie’s opening recorded statements stand today as great cultural artefacts; a period in time captured with all the earthy humour of an “Okie” who lived it like he talked it, and had the wit and the nous to tell the story which never fails to captivate from start to finish. “Talkin’ Dust Bowl Blues” gets proceedings off to an amazing start, charmingly telling the story of a hazardous family journey in their Ford machine full o’ gas Eileen. Starting out from the Dust bowl, they’re bound for the “Peach Bowl”, bouncin’ up and down like popcorn poppin’ in their old jalopy. Pretty much following the adventures of the Joad family from Steinbeck’s novel, Woody’s songs relay the frustration felt by the displaced. Second song in is “Blowin’ Down This Old Dusty Road”: “They say I’m A Dust Bowl refugee lord lord, but I ain’t gonna be treated this way, I’m a lookin’ for a job and honest pay lord lord and I ain’t gonna be treated this way”Do-Re-Mi” makes it clear what’s happening from the point of view of the Californian state – their illegal borders were all about the green backs: “Now, the police at the port of entry say, “You're number fourteen thousand for today”, Oh, if you ain't got the do re mi, folks, you ain't got the do re mi, Why, you better go back to beautiful Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee. California is a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see; But believe it or not, you won't find it so hot If you ain't got the do re mi.” The seventeen verse magnum opus “Tom Joad” takes up sides E and F of the 3 disc set; with his last words on the album, Woody defines Steinbeck’s leading character thus: “Wherever little children are hungry and cry, Wherever people ain’t free, Wherever men are fightin’ for their rights, Thats where I’m gonna be, ma, That’s where I’m gonna be” He was a rough diamond that Joad feller. Much like that Woody Guthrie.

The Jukebox Rebel

A [02:42] 10.0.png Woody Guthrie - Talkin’ Dust Bowl Blues [album version 1940] (Woody Guthrie) Folk
B [03:04] 9.1.png Woody Guthrie - Blowin’ Down This Road (Traditional) Folk
C [02:36] 7.9.png Woody Guthrie - Do Re Mi (Woody Guthrie) Folk
D [02:56] 9.5.png Woody Guthrie - Dust Can’t Kill Me (Woody Guthrie) Folk
E [03:25] 8.7.png Woody Guthrie - Tom Joad part 1 (Traditional) Folk
F [03:30] 8.5.png Woody Guthrie - Tom Joad part 2 (Traditional) Folk

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