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- Posted on Aug 17th 2009 4:00PM by Nick Zaino
"He would say something very serious, like 'Some rob you with a six gun and some with a fountain pen' with this really funny smirk on his face and a twinkling in his eye," she tells Spinner. "So you knew he wasn't some dark, dark agitator angry leftist guy. He was more Mark Twain."
Nora, who is also president of the Woody Guthrie, worked closely with Rounder on the new Woody Guthrie boxed set, 'My Dusty Road,' which hits stores August 25. The four discs each feature a different side of Woody's musical personality: 'Woody's Greatst Hits,' 'Woody the Agitator,' 'Woody's Roots' and 'Woody, Cisco and Sonny.'
It's that last disc, recordings of Woody playing with Gilbert "Cisco" Houston and Sanders "Blind Sonny" Terry, that holds the fondest memories for Nora. People tend to think of Woody as a lone singer/songwriter, a mode that Nora thinks is probably emulated a bit too much today. But she remembers her dad playing with other people, even slipping into the background to accompany others on fiddle.
"Our home life was very much like that on the weekends," she says, "with everybody coming over and everybody pitching in. Pete on banjo, Sonny on harmonica, Cisco on harmony, Jack Elliott playing rhythm guitar. Emotionally, I like that stuff a lot. I also like highlighting the fact that Woody did play music in a band."
The recordings on 'My Dusty Road' were discovered in a basement in Brooklyn a few years ago and carefully remastered. There are more highs and lows in this Woody's voice, in contrast to other recording that flattened him a bit into a limited range and timbre. That's closer to the voice Nora heard in person growing up with her dad, and further from the recordings with which most people, including Nora, associated Woody.
"It has a lot of liveliness to it, which I never associated with him much before, either," she says. "I'm really happy to hear it, because I remember his voice, I remember his sense of humor. I remember all that, and I think we're kind of slowly, with technology, inching towards really hearing Woody Guthrie for the first time, in a way."