Includes liner notes by Guy Logsdon.
THE FOLKWAYS YEARS features 8 previously unreleased tracks, including 2 duets with Woody Guthrie.
Personnel: Cisco Houston (vocals, guitar, acoustic guitar); Woody Guthrie (vocals, guitar, mandolin).
Recording information: 1944-1961.
Except for a few tracks done for Decca between 1951 and 1952, and a lengthy session for Vanguard in 1960, Cisco Houston did all of his recording for Moses Asch's record labels, primarily for Folkways. This comprehensive compilation packs 29 performances (eight of them previously unreleased) into just over 70 minutes, revealing Houston to be an unusually smooth-voiced folksinger with a straightforward professionalism that earned him criticism for not sounding "authentic" enough. Actually, Houston was so versatile that it's sometimes hard to believe all of these recordings are by the same vocalist, especially when he is fulfilling his best-known function of serving as a high-voiced harmony singer behind his friend Woody Guthrie (for example on "A Picture From Life's Other Side"). Houston's baritone, however, which he usually employs when singing alone, proves a clear interpretive device for his collection of folk songs, cowboy songs, and topical material. Sound quality varies; the earliest tracks from the 1940s are crude recordings, while the later ones are better. Throughout the album Houston remains a strong interpretive singer. Compiler Guy Logsdon's liner notes are based on Houston's papers on file at the Smithsonian along with other sources, and they paint one of the most complete portraits yet of Houson's life and career, helping to make this album the definitive survey of his work. ~ William Ruhlmann