Daddy-O Daddy! Rare Family Songs of Woody Guthrie
From Taj Mahal and Billy Bragg, to Cissie Houston and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, a diverse array of musicians sing seven lesser-known and six previously unreleased tunes on this energetic tribute to Woody Guthrie and his playful, whimsical children’s songs. This rollicking album is obviously a labor of love – the producer Frankie Fuchs grew up with Guthrie’s children Arlo, Nora and Joady, and remembers sitting around the Guthrie’s kitchen listening to all the music and talk. And the diverse array of artists Fuchs’ assembled to cover these children’s songs are all Guthrie fans, speaking to Woody Guthrie’s wide-ranging influence. Taj Mahal sings to a calypso, reggae beat on “Don’t Push Me Down,” and as “Count Tickula” on “Little Sack O’Sugar.” Kim Wilson (the frontman for the Fabulous Thunderbirds), puts a bluesy rockin’ spin with his harmonica on “New Baby Train,” and “Bigger.” Cissy Houston (Whitney’s mother) gives a quietly powerful, gospel-tinged performance on “Little Seed,” and the beautiful lullaby “Sleepy Eye.” With help from The Blokes and instruments such as Vietnamese pedal steel guitar, oud, sentir, cimbus, and bouzouki, Billy Bragg (whose Guthrie-inspired “Mermaid Avenue” albums attest to his affinity for Woody’s music), brings an infectious enthusiasm to “Dry Bed,” and “12345678.” And sounding a lot like Guthrie himself, his friend Ramblin’ Jack Elliott gives “I’ll Write and I’ll Draw” a folksy twang. With a playful inventiveness with words and language, Guthrie captured in these songs (many of which were written for his own children) the simple but important concerns in young children’s lives: pride of accomplishment in growing up, bathtime, bedtime, playing with friends, and the adoring attention of their parents. The collection begins and ends with Woody reciting lines to “Howdy Little Newlycome,” recorded in his kitchen in 1951. Those who aren’t familiar with the story of Guthrie’s difficult life and his death in 1967 at age 55 from Huntington’s Disease may find this somewhat lethargic recitation a little bit off-putting. But fans who already know all about Woody will likely find it heartwarming, hearing the voice of the sage songwriter.