LaFave, other Texas songwriters come together to celebrate Woody Guthrie
Get Jimmy LaFave talking about celebrated folkie Woody Guthrie, and you're not going to have to worry about saying much for a while. The venerated Texas songwriter has a pretty much professorial knowledge of not just Guthrie's accomplishments during his 55 years, but current happenings with Guthrie's legacy and archives, and he's more than happy to share them with the slightest urging.
He talks about how Guthrie is often overlooked as a visual artist, literary writer and more, how he was called godless when many of his songs were laced with religious meaning and imagery, or called an anti-American Communist when he wrote anti-Hitler songs praising American troops.
So it's not much of a surprise that LaFave's on his 10th year of celebrating Guthrie from the stage, this time by reprising his acclaimed Ribbon of Highway in the Skyway tribute show into the new "conversational hootenanny" gathering he's titled Walking Woody's Road.
Featuring fellow Texas songwriters Slaid Cleaves, Eliza Gilkyson and Terri Hendrix, the show will be a constant transition of pairings between the artists who will perform Guthrie songs and share their impressions and memories of being influenced by the Oklahoma native who's held by many as the father of the entire American folk movement. The new show is also being held in coordination of the 100th year since Guthrie's birth.
"It'll start out one way, and by the end of the tour it'll be an entirely different show because we'll be sharing our thoughts with each other and things will develop from that," LaFave said by phone recently. "I'm looking forward to dispensing that Woody was so much more than just a singer, because he wrote children's stories, he compiled an amazing collection of art he made, he even wrote erotic poetry, and the only image most people have of him is the dustbowl hobo kind of guy."
LaFave said Guthrie would be an enthusiastic supporter of the Occupy movement in cities across the country, with crowds of people protesting corporate personhood and the country's widening income gap.
"Woody'd be there on the front lines, right there with everybody right now because he knew the power the voice and the guitar could have to change the world," LaFave said. "All of us have that protest element to some of our songs, but I can't think of anyone who is that sort of guiding light that he was. There's no one else like him."
Cleaves agreed, saying it's also harder for singers of a similar spirit to capture the attention of the masses today but that he hopes movements like Occupy will make the masses listen more closely to artists taking up their message.
"There might be guys out there, but the thing is no one is listening to them now like they would have then, but most of them wind up broken down on the side of the road," he said. "I hope that America is waking up, because getting screwed for a long time eventually creates a sea change, and folks like that will be a part of it. There's no question what side Woody would be on. He'd be right there in the fray."
Walking Woody's Road