This four-disc package, supplemented with a biographical essay and copious liner notes, would have earned its “timeless” rating even had it not anthologized all the most accessible and memorable work from the peak of Lady Day’s career. The 80 tracks collected here are extracted from the 2001 10-disc box set of her remastered complete work from 1933-44 for Columbia (and greatly expand upon the two-disc “best of” teaser that was released at the same time as the box).Label: WOODY GUTHRIE PRODUCTIONS
Videos by American Songwriter
If the mark of a good folksinger is the ability to be an oral-history barker, then Woody Guthrie is the 20th century granddaddy of the genre. The Live Wire: Woody Guthrie in Performance 1949, is a testament to Guthrie the singin’/talkin’ social critic. The show was emceed by then-wife Marjorie, sometimes to comical effect (though it’s doubtful Marjorie herself was laughing when she asked Woody to describe, “very briefly this time, please,” in “three sentences” what led him to write about the Dust Bowl, and his answer was neither brief nor confined to three sentences). But it’s precisely Woody’s combination of easy-speakin’ intelligence, fearlessness and verve, coupled with musical aplomb, that made him so damn appealing-and this recording showcases both the singer and the talker. Despite the fact that there is an intermittent muffle, due perhaps to Woody veering away from the mike (at this point the Huntington’s, which causes physical restlessness, may have been setting in), The Live Wire does have that nice vintage, field-recording dusty sound-which is kind of perfect, because no one in their right mind would opt for a cleaned-up Woody.