Good Wood

Various Artists 'Til We Outnumber 'Em: The Songs of Woody Guthrie (Righteous Babe) and Woody Guthrie Dust Bowl Ballads (Buddha/Original Masters Series)

Guthrie's haunting tales of migrant workers and ragged Okie families blown west by poverty and drought come through clear as an unmuddied river on Dust Bowl Ballads, even 60 years after its initial release. As with John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, a book Guthrie knew and loved, the characters who tell the stories on Dust Bowl Ballads represent thousands of other people like them, implying an entire community behind each single narrator. Grapes of Wrath re-created and preserved a whole cross section of the American populace using nothing more than black ink on a white page; in the same fashion, Dust Bowl Ballads isn't anything more than vocals, guitar and harmonica. But in the spaces between its notes, you'll hear a part of American history that has never been preserved so eloquently. If you've somehow come this far without hearing it, you're in for an enviable experience.

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