FAME Review: John McCutcheon - This Land: Woody Guthrie's America
John McCutcheon - This Land: Woody Guthrie's America

This Land: Woody Guthrie's America

John McCutcheon

Appalsongs 2011

Available from John McCutcheon's online store.

A review written for Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Jim Zimmerschied

This CD album, produced and performed by John McCutcheon, is a collection of Woody Guthrie songs to celebrate the 100th birthday of the late song writer and performer who was an interpreter of the life and times of our country's past.

Woody's songs are very familiar to many of us even if we could not say who for sure wrote the song. Appropriately, John McCutcheon is a folk legend with over 30 albums to his credit. So he has the credentials and talent to do it justice.

So what is the point of a CD with a bunch of old folk songs? Entertainment and education.

First, the singing and musical accompaniment is amazing and should be sufficient by itself. However, the songs are a kaleidoscope of the writing of the late Woody Guthrie. Woody was a self-proclaimed hobo who wandered the country and captured what he saw in his music. There are songs like This Land is Your Land which praise the strength and beauty of our country. There are songs like Deportee and Pastures of Plenty that shame us for the exploitation of migrant labor. There are ballads like Pretty Boy Floyd which tell the story of a modern Robin Hood. Tales of corrupt business harming the little guys are captured in the Massacre ballads. Some songs are just for fun like Howjadoo and Mail Myself to You.

That is the education part. Maybe some things we have forgotten or should know. John performs the songs in a variety of musical venues including a emotional reading of This is Our Country. Some are simply performed by John alone on his guitar or dulcimer while others have intricate background accompaniment—vocals, strings, horns, percussion—whatever.

My favorites were Biggest Thing That Man Has Ever Done with its lively fiddle/guitar/banjo backing. This Land is Your Land rocks with a panoramic backing with keyboard, percussion and sax and sung by a host of vocal stars.

As you can see from the playlist there is a variety of songs some of which are not that well known. With 34 albums produced, it goes without saying that John McCutcheon gives it a top notch performance. With assistance from a long list of great performers such as Tim O'Brien, Tommy Emmanuel, Tom Paxton and Willie Nelson—just to name a few—you will find the CD well worth your money and time.

Track List:

  • Biggest Thing That Man Has Ever Done
  • Mail Myself to You
  • I Ain't got No Home
  • Deportee
  • Harness Up the Day
  • This Morning I was Born Again
  • Pastures of Plenty
  • 1913 Massacre
  • Pretty Boy Floyd
  • Old Cap Moore
  • Ludlow Massacre
  • This is Our Country Here
  • This Land is Your Land
  • Hobo's Lullaby

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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