New Multitudes - New Multitudes
If you aren't teary and torn up by the end of "Hoping Machine," check your heart for a beat. While there isn't anything as instantly classic and bone-shaking moving as that track, the semi-supergroup New Multitudes has delivered a powerful set of previously-unreleased Woody Guthrie songs. Unlike the Billy Bragg-Wilco projects, New Multitudes (consisting of Jay Farrar, Yim Yames (My Morning Jacket) Will Johnson and Anders Parker) work with Woody songs that are more personal than political, so there is more emotional power and possibility.
These are songs of Guthrie's time in Los Angeles, and evoke the bewilderment, wonder and heartbreak the master surely felt while he was there. Gram Parsons left his mark in LA too; fittingly, "Fly High" features a jaunty, Parsonesque melody. "My Revolutionary Mind" is jagged, sparse minimal, mostly drums and bass, though with the addition of a beautiful string section.
From the opening rough electric guitar riff of "VD City" you know right away Jay Farrar will figure prominent here, and you are right. Of the other rockers, "Angel's Blues" is large and stuttering, while "No Fear' is muddy, almost abstract.
The band is not afraid to play with styles while keeping folk and country as a foundation. "Talking Empty Bed Blues" is a lilting pop blues that would fit nicely on the White Album, one with added touches of a chorus of vocals and single drum tone, and martial strings near the end. "Chlorine" is an acoustic ballad features a haunting minimal psych melody. "Changing World" swirls childlike, utterly bizarre pop track that sounds like a Brian Wilson outtake-on a really out there day. The title track closes out the set in beautiful, shimmering fashion, with one of Woody's calls for unity and world friendship-with a challenge to make it happen, not just feel good about the sentiment.
New Multitudes brings some of Woody Guthrie's obscure songs of the city to life, and show that the poet saw in the horror and hope of Los Angeles, with an insight into the emotions and rhythms not that different from most places he visited with his sharp and compassionate eye.
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