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Woody Guthrie - The Live Wire

The Live Wire

Woody Guthrie

Available from

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mike Jurkovic

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Recorded in 1949 and donated to the Guthrie Foundation in 2001 by Paul Braverman; then rescued from the eventual decay of wire recording—this truly historic document captures a wildly expressive Guthrie pulling at his wife's managerial reins while Marjorie, bravely, and barely, holds him to the program.

For the uninitiated (myself included), wire recording was widely used during the 40's and 50's, capturing the sound on steel wire, as opposed to tape. It was a less expensive, consumer oriented means of recording than commercial dictation devices.

Throughout 'The Live Wire' we cherish pure Woody: his homespun humor in his accounting of dancers dancing to a folksinger's rhythm (the intro to Talking Dust Bowl Blues). In the intro to Goodbye Centralia when the mine owner tells the government "You stop sending your inspectors you'll stop finding things wrong" Woody observes grimly, and, all-still-relevantly "So that's the kind of human brains controlling the lives. . .not in Nazi Germany, but here". If possible, Tom Joad with its lyric and tempo variations, could be the ultimate performance of this song we have.

Not that it lessens or increases the importance of The Live Wire, but it has just been nominated for Best Historical Album by the 2008 Grammy Awards. This beautifully packaged set includes historical text, never-before-seen-pictures, technical notes and original lyrics.

Track List:

  • How much? How long?*
  • Black Diamond
  • I was there and the dust was there
  • The Great Dust Storm
  • Folk singers and dancers
  • Talking Dust Bowl Blues
  • Tom Joad
  • Columbia River
  • Pastures of Plenty
  • Grand Coulee Dam
  • Told by Mother Bloor
  • 1913 Massacre
  • Quit sending your inspectors
  • Goodbye Centralia
  • A cowboy of some kind
  • Dead or Alive
  • Jesus Christ has come!
  • Jesus Christ
Produced by: Nora Guthrie & Jorge Ar&eqcute;valo Mateus
*Tracks in italics are spoken

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2007, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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