Dropkick Murphys Do Woody: Upcoming album includes song from Guthrie archives
More published lyrics from Woody Guthrie will see the light of day on the fourth album from Boston punk outfit the Dropkick Murphys. With permission from the folk hero's daughter Nora, the band dug into the Guthrie archive for "Gonna Be a Blackout Tonight," the folk-verse-turned-punk-anthem that also gave the upcoming album its title, Blackout.
"Woody's grandson knew our band," says guitarist Ken Casey. "He went to his mother, Nora, and told her that we would be a good fit to record his music, because we're both products of and champions of the working class."
Casey was fond of what Wilco and Billy Bragg did with both Mermaid Avenue albums -- which also featured Guthrie lyrics set to new music -- but that work didn't compromise the exoticism of his own trip into the legend's past. "I was in awe that we'd get the opportunity to go down to New York and look through his archives. I had to put on the special white gloves and was holding pieces of paper that were written on in the 1940s. There were little notes next to the pieces, like, 'I wrote this in a Subway Station in Boston in 1941.' Most of the handwritten songs looked like they were written on a boxcar in the dark. You could barely make out the words."
As far as the music that drives the highly charged "Blackout," Casey says, "we made it the hardest song on the record because we had the idea that if we were going to use one of Woody's pieces, we wanted to do it as differently as possible. I just kind of looked at the lyrics and started building a vocal melody around it. God knows what music Mr. Guthrie had meant for his words, but that's how it wound up."
Blackout, which will also contain a bonus five-song live DVD, is due June 10th.
JOHN D. LUERSSEN