Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker, Yim Yames: New Multitudes
This year commemorates Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday and it’s fitting that the country legend who died in 1967 has been having something of a musical renaissance thanks to the scores of lyrics that he left behind unrecorded, which the Guthrie family has been releasing to musicians to interpret. The latest incarnation of Guthrie’s songs is entitled New Multitudes and features a collaboration of alt-rock musicians: Jay Farrar (Son Volt, Gob Iron, Uncle Tupelo), Will Johnson (Centro-matic, South San Gabriel), Anders Parker (Varnaline, Gob Iron), and Yim Yames (My Morning Jacket, Monsters of Folk).
In first hearing the songs listeners might not pick up on the fact that they were written decades ago by Guthrie, which is a credit both to the songwriting and the interpretations because the album’s 12 tracks (or 23 tracks on the deluxe, limited edition) feel fresh and the music is so natural. The songs come mostly from Guthrie’s time in Los Angeles toward the end of his life so it’s less protest and more coming to terms, but the album seems to show his influence on music as much as anything with the sound ranging from an expected Dylan and Springsteen vibe to sounds like REM and Lou Reed.
The four musicians have a varied sound but the album is fairly consistent with songs ranging from the mellow, tender “Fly High” to rougher, rock tunes like “V.D. City.” The limited edition also includes copies of some original Guthrie lyric sheets along with the 11 songs by Farrar and Parker that are worth a listen to, including “Around New York” and “Old Kokaine.”