30 Best Loved Albums - Dust Bowl Ballads

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2007 will bring the 30th anniversary of my first rock concert (Kiss, December 2, 1977 – Metropolitan Sports Center). In honor of that momentous event I have decided to use this blog to review my 30 best loved albums. They will not be in any order or progression but I will try to review them musically and why they mean so much to me. I’ll also note if they made the Definitive 200 List.

Although I have stated that I’m not going to rank or place in order my favorite 30 albums, there is somewhat of a method to my madness. The first five albums were near and dear to me, some may not necessarily be an all-time favorite, but instead are albums about which that I had a lot to say. The next five albums included artists with long and critically acclaimed careers with many, many different albums from which to choose. My next five albums will be more related to “roots? music: folk, country, americana, etc. Don’t worry, no Big and Rich or Shania here, just good ol’ fashioned American music. With that, on to number 11!

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11. Woody Guthrie – Dust Bowl Ballads (1940)

This could be considered the first “concept? album as the name really says it all: Woody Guthrie with guitar and harmonica singing ballads about the dust bowl, its just that simple. These aren’t just songs about the Dust Bowl, however. They about the poor sharecroppers, farmers, and family folk impacted by the dust storms of the 1930’s. Through these songs you can see the dust, taste it, smell it, feel it all over your body. The songs are that powerful. The first song (The Great Dust Storm) tells the story. You see that big dust cloud, you learn how the farmers reacted, how scared they were and you can’t believe how bad the storm was, that it could be related to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

Dust Bowl Ballads contain songs that are probably familiar to most: Dusty Old Dust (So Long It’s Been Good To Know You) and Blowin’ Down the Road (I Ain’t Gonna Be Treated That a Way) are so familiar that they’re ingrained in our musical DNA. Pretty Boy Floyd has been covered by so many folk artists, its hard to keep count. A musical highlight for me is Do Re Mi, a song about the Okies moving to California and finding out it isn’t the paradise it was advertised as. The fact is that there were so many people moving to California that the local farming communities passed anti-vagrancy ordinances and the Okies had to prove that they either had a job or money (do-re-mi).

Woody Guthrie loved the movie Grapes of Wrath so much that he wrote a seven minute song (broken into two parts) that basically tells the entire Grapes of Wrath story. It’s just as heartbreaking as the book and movie. If you ever need a 7 minute refresher of Grapes of Wrath, you may want to check out Tom Joad I and II.

Woody’s voice is quite plaintive but ironically it’s his voice that really gives these songs their texture. The guitar and harmonica are simple, as are the lyrics. But it’s Woody Guthrie’s gift that he could take complex issues and boil them down to their very core. Very few songwriters have been able to do that and to do it over a whole album makes Dust Bowl Ballads a worthwhile place in my best loved 30 albums.

Place on the Definitive 200: Not on the List.

2 Comments

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This page contains a single entry by Freealonzo published on May 28, 2007 8:15 PM.

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