Various: If You Ain't Got The Do-Re-Mi (Smithsonian)

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Woody Guthrie: Pretty Boy Floyd
Various: If You Ain't Got The Do-Re-Mi (Smithsonian)

Subtitled "Songs of Rags and Riches" this 27-track collection pulls together the likes of bluesmen Lead Belly and Josh White, folk singers such as Pete Seeger and the New Lost City Ramblers, and others on songs (mostly) born in the Depression.

So here are classic songs such as Brother Can You Spare A Dime? and Nobody Knows You When You Are Down And Out. Okay, not the most cheerful of albums you might think -- but these songs and their delivery are an affirmation of the human spirit, and in them you can hear songs which have come down through the years.

Lead Belly's Gallis Pole was resurrected as Gallows Pole and later became Hangman by Led Zeppelin. And you don't have to be a musicologist to appreciate the sentiment behind Yankee Dollar by Trinidadian Lord Invader, or Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee on If You Lose Your Money (which Cream borrowed, bent and turned into an electrifying rocker).

So with Woodie Guthrie's Pretty Boy Floyd, piano rags, bluesman Speckled Red, and the uplifting chorus "You can't scare me I'm stickin' to the union" this may seem quaint, but it is also a powerful reminder of hard times and how songwriters articulate the concerns of ordinary people.

And is a collection -- with excellent essays on the recordings and information on each songs -- which tells you more about the human condition than most CDs cluttering up most record stores.

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