Recommended Albums #64

arlo

Arlo Guthrie: Last of the Brooklyn Cowboys (1973)

Arlo Guthrie’s follow-up to 1972’s Hobo’s Lullaby didn’t produce a hit single to follow his sole top 20 “City of New Orleans” but it’s as fine a collection of covers and originals as he ever released.

arloFortunately his somewhat fluky 1972 hit didn’t convince Arlo to steer his career toward a more contemporary and chart-friendly style, or even the prevailing James Taylor singer-songwriter sound of the time. Woody Guthrie’s son was far too steeped in authentic folk, cowboy ballads and old time Country & Western music.

If the late 60’s/early 70’s British folk movement of Pentangle, Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention revived centuries-old folk songs and murder ballads and introduced them to another generation, Arlo’s work in this era did the same for American folk chestnuts of decades past.

But his great talent was to make these tunes his own. Just as Steve Goodman’s original version of “City of New Orleans” disappoints after hearing Arlo’s masterful cover, so Guthrie’s versions of songs previously recorded by Ernest Tubb (“This Troubled Mind of Mine”) and Hank Williams (“Lovesick Blues”) sound definitive–more so to my ears in fact than the original versions.

And speaking of originals, Arlo sprinkles in his own compositions here too (“Last Train”, “Uncle Jeff”) and they blend seamlessly with the standards to form the tapestry of one of the 70’s strongest folk albums.

Incidentally, do you think Arlo’s “Uncle Jeff” may have inspired a certain John Denver hit of two years later?

guthrie

Listen to: “This Troubled Mind of Mind”

Listen to: “Lovesick Blues”

Listen to: “Last Train”

Listen to: “Uncle Jeff”

 

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2013/11/13/songs-you-may-have-missed-502/

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