FOLK FORWARD – ESSENTIAL FOLK
DUST BOWL BALLADS (1940)
In a whirl of autobiography and activism, Guthrie reinvents American song. The Oklahoma native recorded this 1940 gem in two days, laying the groundwork for thousands of guitar-strumming followers. These are dusty, hard-bitten ballads that somehow gleam and soar more than 70 years after their creation.
THE FREEWHEELIN’ BOB DYLAN (1963)
The folk bard’s second album blew the doors down. Dylan set topical lyrics to traditional melodies, creating classics like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Masters of War” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” The album’s most poignant moments come on “Bob Dylan’s Dream,” where he recalls his now long-gone scuffling days.
The 1970s works of James Taylor, Mitchell and others found folk turning inward. On Blue, her introspective masterpiece, Mitchell employs incisive language and evocative alternate tunings to explore the intricate complications of the heart. High points include “River,” “Carey” and the melancholy title track.
OTHER VOICES, OTHER ROOMS (1993)
In the 1980s Griffith emerged as a singular voice in folk with country-inflected acoustic albums such as Last of the True Believers. This album is a sparkling journey through her folk influences. She covered Guthrie, Dylan, Kate Wolf, John Prine and others—and wound up winning a Grammy for her efforts.
1000 KISSES (2002)
Recorded in producer Doug Lancio’s home studio, 1000 Kisses is a minimalist triumph. Griffin’s character sketches are devastating: pretty little tragedies. She finds a sweet spot between Guthrie’s emphatic populism and Mitchell’s emotional excavations as she sings of fragile folks filled with regret and hard-won wisdom.