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Various artists — Woody Guthrie at 100!: Live at the Kennedy Center



One look at the artists featured on Woody Guthrie at 100!: Live at the Kennedy Center — a concert album/DVD recorded on what would have been his 100th birthday — and his far-reaching impact is clear. Who else could influence both Old Crow Medicine Show and Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello to the same degree that Guthrie did?

Tribute albums like this can be tricky, however. So often these things become more about those covering the songs than the one who actually wrote them, and there are definitely moments here where the re-imagining of a Guthrie classic distracts from the weight of its original.

That said, there are some really beautiful updates: Ani DiFranco’s “Deportee” cover and Roseanne Cash’s take on “I Ain’t Got No Home” are tenderly bare-bones, much like Guthrie’s were. Joel Rafael’s “Ramblin’ Reckless Hobo” sounds almost exactly like pre-electric Bob Dylan — a testament to the profound influence Guthrie had on the voice of a generation.

Likewise, Woody Guthrie at 100! is, for the most part, careful not to forget the reason it was assembled in the first place. Even with such a reputable ensemble, the deep-seated impact of Guthrie’s legacy is its ultimate takeaway, succeeding as a portrait of the consummate American artist, both in sound and perspective. —Zach Hale

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