Sunday mornings are a time to relax, throw on a vinyl and have some fresh brewed coffee out of the french press. I do this almost every Sunday because listening to vinyl forces you relax and with everything I have going on its kind of necessary for me to clear my mind and just listen to music. I want to share some of the wax I listen to each Sunday with all of you and maybe it’ll inspire you to chill out and listen a vinyl on a Sunday morning as well.
Back in 2012, Jay Farrar of Son Volt got together with Will Johnson, Anders Parker and Jim James to record Woody Guthrie songs that had just been discovered. You may remember that Wilco and Billy Bragg recorded some unreleased Woody Guthrie songs as apart of the Mermaid Avenue series and this is a similar release. Woody Guthrie wrote so many songs, the fact that they are still finding them is incredible.
Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker and Jim James’ album of these songs was called New Multitudes but for the the Record Store Day in 2012 they released a 10” vinyl with two songs that don’t appear on the album or deluxe edition and two demo recordings of songs that were on the original release. The EP is called Let’s Multiply and, in my opinion, all the songs on the New Multitudes project, including those in Let’s Multiply, are the best interpretations of Woody Guthrie’s found songs that I’ve heard.
There are moments throughout the album where songs sound like classic Son Volt songs. “Freedom’s Fire,” which kicks off the Let’s Multiply vinyl, is one of those songs. Jay Farrar adds quite a bit of his own style to this, particularly the way he puts a free rhythmic structure to his singing and how often his lines won’t line up with chord changes and they sort of stand out on their own. “Freedom’s Fire” is one of the songs on this collection that doesn’t appear on the original release.
Jim James takes the next song on the EP in the demo recording of “Talking Empty Bed Blues”. In this demo version he uses more of that broad reverb that you may be familiar with from early My Morning Jacket recordings. The version on New Multitudes has less of that reverb.
After turning the vinyl over, another song not included in the original release “Healing Hand” is the first to play. This song features more electric guitar and distortion from the rest of the EP and even stands out from the New Multitudes for the amount of distortion it uses. Still, its a relatively slow song and retains folk-like qualities in the lyrics.
The final song on the Let’s Multiply EP is my favorite song from the entire project. Will Johnson sings a demo version of “Chorine My Sheba Queen” and even though it is a demo version it sounds almost exactly the same as the version that ended up on the New Multitudes album with just him playing the guitar, singing and a few overdubs here and there. This song sounds the most like a Woody Guthrie tune in the way it was recorded and it feels like the chords used in the song would be the same if Woody Guthrie had chosen them himself.
This vinyl EP may be a difficult one to find since it was a special Record Store Day release but you might be able to find it in your local record store or there are places online selling it. Take a listen to this or the New Multitudes album with your coffee this morning and just chill.