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New Multitudes honor Guthrie with new album

NEW YORK (AP) ― The idea for the New Multitudes’ new album was conceived even before the group was created.

Jay Farrar, Yim Yames, Anders Parker and Will Johnson took unfinished songs, poems and other musings of Woody Guthrie and re-imagined them for “New Multitudes,’’ the veteran musicians’ first project together. Because each of the men is in different groups, it took at least two years to get the album finished.

“The sessions (came) slowly but surely, as the thing has come from various corners of the universe in different recording sessions and different mixing sessions and all that,’’ Johnson said.

But the time it took for them to record the album seems relatively short given that the album was first considered almost 20 years ago.

Back then, Son Volt’s Farrar was approached by the Woody Guthrie Archives to work on the working-class troubadour’s incomplete work, a project with Billy Bragg. But then Bragg went on to collaborate with Wilco and the Guthrie project was shelved.

Years later, Farrar linked with Parker of the group Varnaline, and with the help of Guthrie’s daughter Nora, the project was reborn. It caught the attention of My Morning Jacket’s Yames (also known as Jim James), a longtime fan of Guthrie’s music.

“He created a timeless body of work that as long as humans are on this Earth, humans will treasure his work like Beethoven or the classic masters,’’ Yames said of Guthrie, adding: “It’s cool that a person can speak from beyond the grave.’’

Johnson of Centro-Matic came to the project last.

Johnson said because of the members’ commitments to their other groups, completing the project was a difficult task.
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