About this project
The 'Roll Columbia' project will celebrate the 75th anniversary of Woody Guthrie's incredibly creative month writing songs along the Columbia River back in 1941. We are recording first album to ever include all 26 songs that Guthrie turned in to the Bonneville Power Administration 75 years ago, with many of our region's finest musicians contributing tracks to the project.
Project managers Bill Murlin--who published the 1st songbook of this music for the BPA back in 1986--and award-winning roots musician Joe Seamons have worked with musician and producer Jon Neufeld to record new arrangements of 26 songs including "Roll On, Columbia," "Pastures of Plenty" and "Grand Coulee Dam."
Your contribution allows us to mix and master a 26-song double album, design artwork and print 2,000 units slated for release in November of 2016.
Though the songs are all about the Columbia River region, their quality and impact over the past decades made them uniquely significant to Guthrie himself and the struggle of the United States to escape the Great Depression. The musicians who've freshly interpreted these songs come from all around our country, and all now reside in the Pacific Northwest.
Musicians on the New Album
The following musicians have recorded two tracks each for the album--contributors can hear exclusive outtakes from these sessions!
Our ultimate goal after completing the album project is to use a portion of the CD sale profits to create a sustainable fund for an annual Northwest music concert celebration featuring musicians, writers and folklorists exploring the legacy of music created along and about the Columbia River. This fund is being managed by theOregon Cultural Heritage Commission, which has partnered with us long term so that our project can accept tax deductible donations! A full list of our project partners can be seen below.
We are inviting musicians worldwide to upload their version of Woody's music via Youtube & Soundcloud with the hashtag #rollcolumbia - here is a version of Woody's "Pastures of Plenty" shared by album artists Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons:
Seattle DJ and author Greg Vandy has just published a new book about the story of Woody Guthrie and the Northwest--you can choose it as one of your rewards and catch one of our concert events where Greg will be presenting his work!
Events at the Grand Coulee Dam, as well as festivals and venues throughout Oregon and Washington have featured these songs by performers listed here. Author Greg Vandy discusses his work on "26 Songs in 30 Days" at many of these events, which are ongoing. We tell the stories behind the songs while publicizing our album, teaching the songs to young people, and creating momentum that we will maintain with our annual event in future years.
The Stories & The Songs
The first in a series of articles by Joe Seamons examining each song and letter Woody wrote related to the northwest folk songs can be read here. These articles are aimed at exploring Guthrie's process as a songwriter, as well as contextualizing the source melodies and musical icons that influenced that process. In tandem with community jam sessions and music classes (see image above) the stories of Woody's songs are being spread throughout our region.
Several organizations have agreed to partner with our project, spreading the word among their networks, promoting our events, and offering financial contributions as well:
Portland Folkmusic Society - http://www.portlandfolkmusic.org/
PFS was one of the first organizations to give our project financial support, enabling us to cover studio fees in the early stages of our project!
In the spirit of Woody Guthrie, we are compelled to fight for fairness. Today, that means advocating and agitating for wise policies regarding the use of the Columbia River and its tributaries. To that end, we have partnered with the non-profit Columbia River Keeper to fight against profiteering practices that pollute the river--practices that Guthrie condemned in private letters the same year he wrote his masterful songs.
Dusty Strings Music School - Based in Seattle's Fremont District, this school partnered with us in 2016 to further our shared goal of inspiring more informal music through promoting our concerts and hosting classes at their school dedicated to teaching Woody's Northwest songs!
A nonprofit organization, Northwest Folklife creates opportunities for all people to celebrate, share, and participate in the evolving traditions of the Pacific Northwest, year-round. This year, they invited Greg Vandy to curate a stage at their annual festival, where Roll Columbia producers Joe Seamons and Bill Murlin performed. www.nwfolklife.org
Vivian and Phil Williams have been documenting and performing Northwest folk music since their teens in the 1950's. They learned the pioneer dances as kids. As they discovered the Northwest manifestations of music that came to the region from all over the world with the pioneers, along with the Northwest's unique style of old time fiddling, they expanded their concert repertoire and began recording regional artists on their Voyager Recordings label. Learn more: http://www.voyagerrecords.com/pvwebbro.htm
Risks and challenges
The greatest challenge we face is managing to include all the great musicians who've offered to collaborate with us on this large project. We are tackling that in two ways:
1. Launching a "tiny desk" style social media campaign this summer to invite artists to upload their own interpretations of Woody's Northwest songs to Youtube or Soundcloud.
2. Hosting concert events across our region featuring local artists performing their take on the songs.
Additional risks are that lack of funding will prevent us from being able to print CDs--but if this campaign does not succeed, we can still release a digital-only version of our album to the world!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Support this project
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