New Releases

Guthrie Interpreted


If folk forefather Woody Guthrie were alive today, he would certainly be a Record Store Day enthusiast. And one senses that he would be pleased with Farrar/Johnson/Parker/Yames' interpretation of his music on the exclusive, 10" vinyl Rounder release Let's Multiply, commemorating the annual occasion when music lovers gather at record stores for live performances and a celebration of all things musical. (This year on Saturday, April 21.)

The modern-day troubadour supergroup Jay Farrar (Son Volt), Will Johnson (Centro-matic), Anders Parker (Varvaline), and Yim Yames (My Morning Jacket) recently released another Guthrie collection, New Multitudes. They tastefully curate a set of four Guthrie songs on Let's Multiply that is long on intimacy and craft and manages to perfectly capture the yearning that marked much of Guthrie's songwriting. On opening track "Freedom's Fire" the band wrangles and jangles around Guthrie's heartfelt lyrics and expands the instrumentation with a keen sense of the song's spare honesty. The unreleased demo of "Talking Empty Bed Blues" carries on in this vein, with echoing, empty-room vocals that sum up the song's lonely theme.

It's not until "Healing Hand" do the amplifiers come alive, although even plugged in the band somehow manages to preserve Guthrie's homespun, acoustic sound. It's the most rocking song on the album and a nice punctuation to the otherwise hushed tones marking the other tunes. And none are more hushed and haunting than "Chorine My Sheba Queen," another never-before-released demo that will stick with you long after it's over.