Personnel: Woody Guthrie (vocals, guitar); Lead Belly (vocals, guitar).
Liner Note Authors: Anthony Seeger; Jeff Place; Guy Logsdon.
Folkways: The Original Vision has served to celebrate important dates for Smithsonian Folkways more than once. First off, the compilation of Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly songs was used to announce the label's new incarnation -- from Moses Asch's Folkways to the nonprofit Smithsonian Folkways -- in 1989, and once again, in 2005, with six bonus cuts to celebrate the label's 15th anniversary. In both cases, the early recordings of Guthrie and Leadbelly have proved the perfect choice because of the quality of the performances and their symbolic importance. It was Asch, after all, who extensively recorded the works of both artists during a time when the mainstream recording industry turned a deaf ear to folk music. While there are more comprehensive recordings of both Guthrie and Leadbelly's material, Original Vision does contain a number of both performers' signature songs including "Cotton Fields," "Irene," "This Land Is Your Land," and "Midnight Special." The recording quality is rudimentary, but for the "one man, one guitar" aesthetic both men practiced, it's more than adequate. The are no previously unreleased cuts among the bonus material, but the six additional songs do modernize the album for the CD age. For those who've never had the good fortune to listen to the music of Guthrie or Leadbelly, or for those who'd like to celebrate Smithsonian's 15th year as a premiere independent label, Folkways: The Original Vision will fit the bill. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.