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The Great Depression Music

Woodie Guthrie, Dust Bowl Ballads ()

Perhaps the greatest folk musician in American history, Guthrie was himself a Dust Bowl refugee; his collection of Dust Bowl Ballads rivals Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath as the definitive cultural expression of "Dust Bowl Blues."

Woody Guthrie, The Greatest Songs of Woody Guthrie (1972)

Emerging as a folk balladeer and protest singer during the Great Depression, Guthrie was––and continues to be––a major influence on rock songwriters and performers who find inspiration in his bold, forthright poetry. All tracks on this album were written by Woody Guthrie, though most were recorded by other folk singers. It features some of Guthrie's most revered and influential compositions, including "This Land Is Your Land," "So Long, It's Been Good to Know Yuh," and "Pretty Boy Floyd," performed by folk songstress Joan Baez.

Various Artists, O Brother, Where Art Thou? [The Soundtrack to the Film] (2000)

The music here serves as the focus, rather than simply the backdrop, for the plot of the Coen Brothers film. Even if you never see the movie, be sure to pick up this soundtrack, which features American roots music, folk, and bluegrass tunes from the Depression era.

Various Artists, Ken Burn's Jazz: The Story of American Music (2000)

Check out this comprehensive collection of jazz masterpieces from the early twentieth century compiled by filmmaker Ken Burns for his documentary on the history of the genre.

Various Artists, Brother Can You Spare A Dime? (2001)

Brother Can You Spare a Dime? offers a sampling of tracks representing various regions, ethnic backgrounds, and class perspectives from the Depression era. The CD also includes a 36-page booklet with detailed notes on each of the sixteen tracks!

Robert Johnson, The Complete Recordings (1990)

African-American blues artist Robert Johnson was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta during the height of the Jim Crow era, when legal segregation and the threat of violence controlled the lives of all southern blacks. When the Great Depression hit the Delta, Johnson had already spent his entire life struggling to make ends meet. Here, his haunting lyrics and eerie guitar riffs, recorded in the 1930s, reflect these experiences and offer listeners a rare window into the soul of a man who both suffered and endured.

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