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February 28, 2012 / jhsaeger

Tuesday’s Best: The New Multitudes Woody Guthrie Project

   It is safe to say that the songwriting in the collaborative project New Multitudeswas excellent, although that would be expected of most of the material from their original creator, Woody Guthrie. It may also be a safe assumption that Guthrie would have appreciated that the project was recorded in five separate states, including those with Gulf Stream waters and a New York Island.
   Tasked by the Guthrie estate to use a collection of the folksinger’s unpublished lyrics, an unnammed supergroup collaborated on a truly remarkable project that will help mark the anniversary of the artist’s 100th birthday. Consisting of Yim Yames (My Morning Jacket’s Jim James), Jay Farrar (Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt), Anders Parker (Varnaline), and Will Johnson (Centro-matic), each of the artists separately recorded three selections of Guthrie’s lyrics in studios in New York, Montana, Vermont, Texas, and Kentucky. The sporadic recording process did not dilute the album, however, as the album retains a continuity that is not always found in these type of projects. Rather, New Multitudes successfully honored the spirit of Guthrie’s work.
       Lyrically, the most inspiring track on New Multitudes was the picturesque “Hoping Machine,” which was sung beautifully by Jay Farrar. By placing the song first in the record, the group set the tone for the album through the imagery of the lines, “Music is the language of the mind that travels/carries the key to the laws of time and space/Lonesome train whistling down the silent wail of wind/Life is the sound, creation has been a song.”
    The pace of the record escalates as the album progresses, evolving from quiet folk music before picking up the tempo with several more rock-friendly tracks, including the feedback-friendly “VD City” and Anders Parker rocker “Old L.A.”
   As the flip side of New Multitudes’ alternates between folk songs and stripped-down rock, Anders Parker sprinkles a dash of Neil Young-style vocals and guitar that breathes life into “Angel’s Blues,” a terrific edition to the project.
    The New Multitudes project is available as a digital download, CD, deluxe edition CD, and vinyl. The all-star quartet will embark on a brief tour to support the album, hitting a handful of major cities, including Philadelphia’s Union Transfer on March 13.
Other Cool Stuff That Hits This Week: Johnny Cash: Live from Austin, Texas, The Cranberries: Roses, Lyle Lovett: Release Me, Todd Rundgren: Todd, Pink Floyd: The Wall (Experience, Immersion Box Sets)

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