Saturday, January 27, 2007

Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly at WNYC

A few days ago I received a forwarded message from Eli Smith of the radio program Down Home Radio. He hosts the show on WNYC radio in New York, along with Henrietta Yurchenco. The message read, in part:

"My co-host on the show, Henrietta Yurchenco sent me down to the WNYC archives a while back where archivist Andy Lanset gave me the transcription of a program which Henrietta was the producer for back in 1940. It is Leadbelly's show and his guest that week was Woody Guthrie. It's really a great show, about 1/2 hour long, and the audio fidelity is so good that it really gives you a taste of what it must have been like to turn on your radio and have these two great musicians playing live over the air. I don't believe this program has been heard since it was first broadcast 67 years ago."

Eli sent out the note to his own distribution list, and fortunately one of the recipients forwarded it on to me. But I was busy, whatever, I didn't follow up.

So, last night I got another forwarded message, this one from writer Elijah Wald. Again, I'm not on Wald's list, but fortunately one of the recipients was kind enough to forward.

Well... Eli's not kidding.

This show is just astounding, to me.

It comes, in surprisngly good quality, just out of nowhere. With Henrietta, the original producer, around 67 years later and with specific recall of it. Leadbelly and Woody, together in the studio. And, of course, Guthrie's 3-song set.

When I reserached my "Songs of the Seeger Sessions" website last year, I spent a lot of time unsuccessfully trying to track down a Guthrie recording of Billy Gashade's "Jesse James" (Woody recorded a different song of the same name). And here it was, sitting in someone's closet for half a century or more.

Woody's lyrics are interesting: no "solitary race" verse, his wife didn't mourn for his life; "Jesse's got a wife, she's proud of his life." And it's pretty much all about the Robinhood angle. "Jesse was a man, a friend to the poor, and he never would rob a mother with a child. But he took it from the rich and he gave it to the poor, so they shot Jesse James on the sly."

Guthrie's intro to "Jesse James" is priceless:
"Here's one about a boy way out in Missouri, way out West, he ranged all over the Western states, and he built up I guess a better reputation than most politicians out in that country. His name was Jesse James. He tried to shoot his way through life with a couple guns, and he lost... but he tried."

Guthrie's other two songs on the original show were "John Hardy" and "Ballad of Tom Joad," so a lot of that melody surrounding "Jesse James."

Then there's the rest of the archive beyond the original 1940 broadcast, with "They Laid Jesus Christ in his Grave" (Library of Congress recording, I think), and two songs of Leadbelly and Woody playing together. Stay for "We Shall Be Free," with Sonny Terry also joining in.

The show is available for download at
www.downhomeradioshow.com/ShowMp3s/DHRGuthrieLeadbellyShow1.mp3
I have posted Jesse James at bruce.orel.ws/seegersessions/mp3/jesse2.mp3

Have a listen, and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

What are you doing?

The things the children can say. I was out supervising the skiers last weekend, and called home. Elianna got on the phone. "What are you doing?," I asked her.
"Talking to you on the phone!"
Later, at dinner she announced, "I'm full!" So, we said, she must not want dessert. "No, only the healthy part of me is full. The dessert part is empty."

We went to the North America International Auto Show last Friday. Lots of cars, not enough time to see without wearing out the legs. There were lots of legs, there too. We saw the Kia concept car, the Kue. The young woman there for the car explained that it was a clay model, talked about the car, and... had about the lowest neckline I've seen in years. And Lori kept asking questions. When we moved on, she asked me, "did you see enough?" All I could say was, "I suppose I could have seen more."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Winter finally arrives

Winter finally started today.

Our streak of days at least 7 degrees above normal ended last week at 31, and we ended up with 37 consecutive days above normal, altogether. Today was the first day of winter with temperatures below normal.

We did have a nasty little ice storm Sunday night, took out a few pretty big trees around the neighborhood. I think it finally killed off the broccoli plants; first the winds took off the covers, then the ice froze the plants. They looked pretty stiff yesterday.

Yesterday was the rare day with me off from work with the kids in school. Maybe the last such day this year. So I got to do after-school pickup. The sleet turned to snow just about pickup time. I picked up Elianna ath the kindergarden, and by the time I turned to warn her to be careful on the ice, she had her tongue out to collect the snowflakes. Snow, after all, is one of her favorite foods. The follow-up of "You Are My Sunshine" was the bonus for what had been a grey day.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Global Cooking

Every day I've been back to work this week, at least one person has remarked something like, "at least it's not that cold outside," or "it's really nice out today!" To which I am usually responding something along the lines of, "no, this is bad, this is very, very bad." It's January and the ground in southeast Michigan isn't frozen. The broccoli plants are still alive in the garden, and still producing, I harvested more on New Year's day.

There are immediate local impacts of the warm weather, of course: Ski areas are closed. Snow removal crews are idle. Heating bills are lower. And lots of people are talking about how "nice" the weather is.

Today is the 26th consecutive day of above normal temperatures here. Every day during these past 26 has had a high temperature at least 7 degrees above normal. The following chart, culled from information at The Weather Underground website shows the temperatures here since December 10:
Date High Normal Diff Low Normal Diff Mean Normal Diff Precip Normal
Diff
4-Jan 48 32 16 41 19 22 45 26 19 0.32 0.05 0.27
3-Jan 47 30 17 34 20 14 41 25 16 0.00 0.14 -0.14
2-Jan 44 31 13 30 20 10 37 26 12 0.00 0.01 -0.01
1-Jan 53 31 22 35 21 14 44 26 18 0.00 0.00 0.00
31-Dec 53 34 19 37 21 16 45 28 18 0.49 0.04 0.45
30-Dec 48 32 16 35 21 14 42 27 15 0.00 0.20 -0.20
29-Dec 41 33 8 34 22 12 38 28 10 0.05 0.06 -0.01
28-Dec 43 34 9 36 22 14 40 28 12 0.00 0.10 -0.10
27-Dec 39 32 7 33 21 12 36 27 10 0.00 0.13 -0.13
26-Dec 39 28 11 34 19 15 37 24 13 0.12 0.09 0.03
25-Dec 41 31 10 34 20 14 38 26 12 0.05 0.08 -0.03
24-Dec 44 33 11 35 21 14 40 27 13 0.04 0.01 0.03
23-Dec 44 35 9 39 23 16 42 29 13 0.00 0.03 -0.03
22-Dec 55 35 20 41 22 19 48 29 20 0.44 0.05 0.39
21-Dec 43 34 9 37 23 14 40 29 12 0.15 0.29 -0.14
20-Dec 43 34 9 28 25 3 36 30 6 0.00 0.04 -0.04
19-Dec 43 35 8 28 25 3 36 30 6 0.00 0.06 -0.06
18-Dec 46 33 13 33 23 10 40 28 12 0.01 0.05 -0.04
17-Dec 55 32 23 48 23 25 52 28 24 0.00 0.00 0.00
16-Dec 48 35 13 30 25 5 39 30 9 0.00 0.03 -0.03
15-Dec 46 37 9 37 26 11 42 32 10 0.00 0.07 -0.07
14-Dec 52 36 16 37 26 11 45 31 14 0.00 0.01 -0.01
13-Dec 48 37 11 39 27 12 44 32 12 0.03 0.08 -0.05
12-Dec 52 39 13 41 27 14 47 33 14 0.57 0.16 0.41
11-Dec 48 35 13 41 25 16 45 30 15 0.02 0.09 -0.07
10-Dec 50 36 14 36 25 11 43 31 13 0.00 0.29 -0.29
Average 47 34 13 36 23 13 41 28 13 0.09 0.08 0.01
And there's no immediate end in sight. The Weather Underground has forecasts up through January 11; every day is predicted to be warmer than normal, with an average high 12 degrees above normal.

The precipitation patterns have been weird, as well. Although total precipitation has been about level with the totals posted at Weather Underground, it has come in torrents: Tonight is the fourth monsoon of the past 4 weks. December 31st was the wettest New Year's eve on record in Detroit, and today's rainfall will surely end up much higher than the .32 inches currently reported on the site.

Understanding, of course, that 26 days on one location is a small data sample, and hardly indicative of global anything. Even so: Be scared. Be very, very scared. This isn't Global Warming. It's nearly cooking here in Michigan.