This CD first breathed life as a bit of Woodie Guthrie tribute hootenanny headed by an impromptu trio (Fred Gillen Jr., Todd Giudice, Steve Kirkman) and then grew into an adoption of Guthrie's thinking and spirit in a real-time, real world, roll up the sleeves affair. Thus, there are only three of Woody's songs here, but the entire album is in the famed troubadour's well-known mindset. Indeed, the ensemble's very name is drawn from a Guthrie lyric: "a human being is, anyway, just a hoping machine". Along the way, things gathered steam and slowly transformed, and a trib CD woulda been very nice but this is better.
Take the train-time mellow / rockin' version of Guthrie's Pastures of Plenty, about the plight of migrant labor on the landlorded fruitful land, a cut that arrests the attention through an impassioned voice and atmospheric electric lap steel guitar, not to mention a burnin' harmonica muttering and perambulating. It's a lament but an urgent one. Sundancer is equally plaintive but, as many of the tunes here, based in the plight of the natives so hideously treated by the Euros, and then Americans, who took the land, genocide included as a generous bonus plan. Big Green swells and billows with outrage over the devastation the native peoples suffered, "Sundancer" reins it in to temper outrage with admiration for the ways of the oppressed.
My God comes stripped down and rarely has that phrase been quite so affecting, repeated to drive home the point of desperation and forlorn spirits. Guthrie himself would've loved the cut, a perfect marriage of the heart of the common man with power of art, haunting long after the disc has been removed from the player. Through the entire set of songs, a wide variety of folk styles is employed, making Big Green a smorgasbord of modes and delights. Hope Machine is going far to preserve the past while singing to the present…and hopefully the future.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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