In celebration of the centennial of Woody Guthrie’s birth, alt-folk singer-songwriter Jonatha Brooke will perform songs from The Works, her album of original music set to previously unused Guthrie lyrics, at Wednesday’s installment of the American Songbook series.
In 2007, Nora Guthrie, the folk legend’s daughter and estate guardian, invited the Illinois native to create a handful of songs from his archived material for a benefit. While artists like Billy Bragg and Wilco, among others, have composed music from the Guthrie's unpublished body of work in the past, Brooke became the first female musician to ever do so.
During the project, Brooke became “smitten” with Guthrie’s compositions and sought to turn it into a full-length album. With Nora’s blessing and collaboration, she composed a total of 11 songs that draw from different periods in troubadour’s life—from early, light-hearted ballads (“All You Gotta Do Is Touch Me”) to more bittersweet lines written later while he was hospitalized with Huntington’s disease (“New Star”). The LP was released in 2008.
Download “All You Gotta Do Is Touch Me,” featuring a duet between Brooke and bluesman Keb’ Mo’ atop steel guitar twangs and organs, above. In the video below, Brooke discusses The Works project at length.
Jonatha Brooke performs at Jazz at Lincoln Center on Wednesday night.