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James Talley

Woody Guthrie and Songs Of My Oklahoma Home – 1999 (Cimarron)

Reviewed by Joel Bernstein

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CDs by James Talley

Woody Guthrie was one of the great songwriters of the 20th Century, but few people really know him today. His song that everybody sings, "This Land Is Your Land," is as misunderstood as "Born In The USA." But like today's HNC writers, Guthrie was determined to write songs that gave people a positive outlook and made them feel better about themselves. It's just that the characters and places in his songs are from a world long ago. Guthrie couldn't really sing, and his records were low-fi even for their day.

People who can't watch black-and-white movies will never appreciate Woody Guthrie. Yet, if you think about them, Guthrie's songs are also about today's world, and that will be true as long as poverty and class divisions continue to exist. James Talley, once a working class hero in his own right, who had four albums on Capitol in the '70's, can sing As an Oklahoma native, he can also relate to Guthrie's songs better than most. He captures the feeling and mood of Guthrie's songs, with simple (but sonically clear) backing. These 21 songs include some of Guthrie's better known works like "Pretty Boy Floyd" and "Deportee" and some very obscure. It's a history of America in the '30's and '40's more vivid than you'll ever get from a book. And if Woody can hear this album in his grave, he's got to be smiling.