Thursday 24 Apr

IndianGiver - Understudies

There’s a difference between being derivative and being inspired by something, a line a lot of artists can’t seem to find — or at least don’t care to.
04/22/2014 | Comments 0

Dustin Prinz - Eleven

Few musicians take the time to master their instrument in the way that Oklahoma City singer-songwriter Dustin Prinz has; he’s a guitar virtuoso in every sense of the word, and Eleven gives him the chance to show just how far he can push that skill.
04/15/2014 | Comments 0

Horse Thief – Fear in Bliss

Listening to Horse Thief’s previous release — the haphazardly melodramatic Grow Deep, Grow Wild — felt like a chore. Whatever potential the Oklahoma City folk-pop act demonstrated on the EP was obscured behind a formulaic, contrived and ultimately hollow cloud. But it at least offered a glimmer of promise for a band consisting of, frankly, five pretty talented dudes. Critics saw it; the band’s management saw it; its current label, Bella Union, saw it; and its increasingly fervid fan base saw it.
04/08/2014 | Comments 0

Colourmusic — May You Marry Rich

There’s always a sense of danger when debuting songs in a live setting and playing them well. Without having heard the studio versions, expectations are set according to the live incarnations. But capturing the breadth of free-flowing atmosphere and sheer volume on a disc, vinyl or digital file isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially for a band as vociferous as Colourmusic.
04/01/2014 | Comments 0

Em and the MotherSuperiors — Churches into Theaters

As titles go, Churches into Theaters is an apt descriptor for the debut album from Oklahoma City rockers Em and the MotherSuperiors. It’s a reverential record, one that shares the gospel of classic rock, blues and soul but embraces the need to refashion it for modern times, channeling The Dead Weather, Grace Potter and Cage the Elephant along the way.
03/25/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Music · Music · Folk hero

Folk hero

Those musicians influenced by Woody Guthrie will pay tribute to him at the annual folk festival that proudly bears his name.

Joshua Boydston July 13th, 2011

Woody Guthrie Folk Festival featuring Jimmy LaFave, Stoney LaRue, Shawn Mullins and more
Okemah 918-623-2440

Woody Guthrie was a masterful writer, a talented musician and a brilliant visionary. For many, like performer Jimmy LaFave, it’s a shame he’s not always remembered as such.

“There’s a real treasure here,” said LaFave, who performs Friday at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, which runs today through Sunday. “There’s been a real injustice done to this guy’s memory, and we’ve got to correct that. We should embrace this man’s legacy. We can learn a lot from him.”

Now in its thirteenth year, the festival has gathered fervent fans and major musicians under the unyielding heat of Guthrie’s native Okemah to celebrate his life and influence. It’s a can’t-miss event for a particular populace that continues to marvel and adore him so much.

“It’s a reunion for us musicians,” said Slaid Cleaves, taking the stage on Thursday. “It’s special to be where Woody grew up. Echoes of those memories still linger.”

It’s a sort of magical summer camp for these performers, many of whom return year after year, and all of whom play for free. They reminisce over their first encounters with Guthrie’s music — nearly always singing along with “This Land Is Your Land” in elementary school — and then discovering the importance of his work after their lives lead toward the path of music.

“Most music was made just as pure entertainment,” said Gretchen Peters, who plays Friday and has written hits for the likes of George Strait and Neil Diamond. “His led to the dawning — in my mind — that music could be about more than ‘I love you, baby’ sort of stuff.”

Nearly all studied his songs tirelessly, yearning to capture the substance and weight he managed to convey through his plain, folksy (but endlessly clever) demeanor and writing style. “The simplicity and power of his songwriting served as a guidepost for my early writing. It’s a good yardstick to put your songs up against,” Cleaves said. “It’s hard to measure up, though.”

Peters agreed. “He took the specific and made it universal,” she said. “That’s the most important thing you can do as a songwriter. If you are going to involve people emotionally, if you are going to get them where they live, you have to tell stories that they can believe and invest themselves in. Woody was a master of that.”

Much of that talent got lost in politics. Muckraking tarnished his legacy in the minds of some. He was labeled a radical leftie and a communist, but continued to brandish his guitar to fight injustices until Huntington’s disease stole his health and ability to create.

Luckily, time didn’t forget Guthrie; folk, rock, punk and even political figureheads continually cite the importance of his work. Now, he’s assuming a spot alongside Will Rogers as one of the state’s most beloved figures. In many minds, that’s taken far too long.

“The state is slowly, thank goodness, coming to terms with the impact of Woody Guthrie,” LaFave said. “He’s finally getting his due, being celebrated as one of the great native sons of Oklahoma. He’s the most famous Oklahoman in the world, an anomaly of a human being … people like him don’t come along too often.”

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