By DAVE GIL DE RUBIO
When Woody Guthrie's daughter Nora opened up the archives of her father's copious amounts of unreleased material to Billy Bragg and Wilco back in the late '90s, the union produced two Mermaid Avenue albums chock full of the late Okie's unrecorded lyrics set to new music. The response was so positive that Guthrie's daughter invited more artists to do some further digging and recording, including The Klezmatics and Jonathan Brooke.
The latest passel of musicians to be extended this invitation is the Americana supergroup of Will Johnson (Centro-Matic), Jay Farrar (Son Volt, Uncle Tupelo), Yim Yames (My Morning Jacket), and Anders Parker (Varnaline). This resulting meeting of minds yielded the recently released The New Multitudes, a project in the vein of Mermaid Avenue recorded to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Woody Guthrie's birth. An accompanying tour opens tonight (March 6) at the Fillmore. And while a hootenanny's worth of singer-songwriters have covered the Godfather of Folk Music over the years, some were more expected than others. Here are the top 5 weirdest Woody Guthrie covers.
5. Nazareth, "Vigilante Man"
Taken from the Scottish hard rock quartet's third album, 1973's Roger Glover-produced Razamanaz, this version is heavy on the slide guitar and world-weary vocals. It makes for a Guthrie cover that wouldn't sound out of place on Exile on Main Street, despite the dirge-like outro laced with Queenesque harmonies.
4. Fishbone and Little Richard, "Rock Island Line"
Found on the 1988 Woody Guthrie album Folkways: A Vision Shared - A Tribute to Woody Guthrie, the odd pairing of Fishbone with Little Richard shared room with a more conventional cast of artists including Bruce Springsteen, U2, Bob Dylan, and Arlo Guthrie. Best known as the breakthrough hit for seminal skiffle artist Lonnie Donegan, "Rock Island Line" here becomes a skittish slice of '50s rock infused with a hefty dose of gospel-flavored nuances that reflect Little Richard's Baptist beginnings.
3. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, "This Land is Your Land"
Here, Guthrie's best-known composition (and arguably one of the greatest-ever folk songs) is transformed from a campfire singalong to a swaggering funk shuffle reminiscent of vintage James Brown, thanks to the popping brass and Jones' infectious testifying.