If you didn't know any better, you might think, after hearing 'Good Days a Comin' (Right Side Up), that you're digging some itinerant flat- and finger-picking folk singer who rides the rails 1940s hobo-style like Woody Guthrie. Then you'd realize it's a Southern Illinois University graduate named Ivas John whose mastery of both Appalachian mountain music and Mississippi Delta blues coalesces within the soul of this one mighty fine singer-songwriter.
Protest singers have come and gone but the relevance of Woody Guthrie still echoes to this day. As its been discovered, Mr. Guthrie's humble reach extends to the current Republican primaries for the candidacy--to none other than Mr. Donald Trump. While Guthrie may not have known Donald in his life he did know his father Fred Trump as his landlord in a little Brooklyn enclave called Beach Haven, which strictly did not lease to African-Americans and which he reworked into the song "I Ain't Got No Home."
'This Land' (Newport Classic Recordings), subtitled "Symphonic Variations On A Song By Woody Guthrie," is by the living legend known as David Amram, who, now 85 years-old, has conducted 75 of the world's greatest orchestras. A friend to Kerouac, Ginsburg, Dylan, Seeger and, yes, Guthrie...composer-in-residence at the New York Philharmonic since 1966...pioneer of the French Horn in jazz since the 1950s...a world music, folk, classical and jazz icon.
With musicians in strife over their songs being inadvertently associated with certain political front runners, Bernie Sanders may be able to avoid the controversy. The Vermonter-Socialist can simply use his own Burlington-based label recording of "We Shall Overcome" and even the Guthrie classic "This Land is Your Land."
Huddie Ledbetter, more commonly known as "Lead Belly," is having a Smithsonian Folkways moment for his latest tribute: Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection. An anthology and coffee-table book that broadly chronicles Belly's career, it's essential to folk fans of any stripe.
In a nation full of monuments, of which President Barack Obama has been on a crusade to protect, there may be no city in the U.S. more historically rooted in Americana than New York City. But on a smaller scale, through a more narrow scope, it is the city's underground and word-of-mouth venues, the clubs like the Village Vanguard, that have yet to close -- or, for that matter, change. The jazz club has turned 80 years old.
The controversial 1927 execution of anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti has inspired books, movies, plays, songs, an opera and a new "object-oriented" Off-Broadway piece.
The musical vineyard that is Woody Guthrie speaks to a history of America that still rings true today. As the events in Ferguson, M.O. unfold, pop stars and obscure voices alike come together at the VMAs to stand up for what they believe in, not unlike Guthrie in a more rural country.
You'll recall that Alan Lomax began his tour of the United States in the 1940s. He set out with a Presto Model K8 recording machine--a 78 r.p.m. direct-to-disc field recorder--in hopes of archiving regional music from around the nation and, ultimately, the globe. Alex Steyermark, a director and music supervisor for films, and music journalist Lavinia Jones-Wright acquired a K8 machine in 2010 and set out on a similar path that Lomax did.
The grand-father of the folk movement, singing troubadour to Masters of the Universe and college youths alike, author of America's folk standard "If I Had a Hammer--Pete Seeger--passed away this Monday at New York's Presbyterian Hospital. He was a "mighty" 94 years old.
Expecting a Classicalite's Five Best? It's Chanukah! And even though there's a shocking paucity of decent music for this particular Jewish festival, 8 is indeed the number...