EPISODE 37: Home in This World: Woody Guthrie’s Dustbowl Ballads W/ Randall Poster

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Show Notes

Randall Poster is an American music supervisor and a longtime collaborator with film director Wes Anderson. For anyone not familiar with what a music supervisor does, he’s the person who selects the songs to play during a movie, television show, or commercial. Some of Randall’s credits include “Skyfall,” The Wolf of Wallstreet, and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Randall recently collaborated with Kiss the Ground on a new project called “Home in This World: Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl Ballads.” It’s a track-by-track recreation of Guthrie’s 1940 “Dust Bowl Ballads” album, a collection of songs about the economical hardships of the Great Depression. Randall recruited a diverse group of artists to revamp the tracks on the record while maintaining the same message: Take care of the earth before it’s too late.

Transcript


I've sown this song, but I'll
sing it up in the place that I

lived on the wild, Windy Plains
in the month called April, in a

county called great here's what all of
the people they're saying. So long,

it's been good to know you so
long. It's been good to know you

so long. It's been good to
know Ya. This dusty old dusty is

a getting my whole. I've gotta
be drifted. ID storm hitting. It

hit like thunder dust it a sober
and covered asunder, locked out the traffic

in, blocked out the sun,
straight for home, all the people did.

I singing so long, it's been
good to know you so long.

It's been good to know you so
long. It's been good to know your

this dusty old dusty is again in
Mo. I've gotta be drifting. We

talked of the end of the world
and then we sing a song and sing

it up and eats it forevers and
not say word and in these words would

be heard. So long it's been
good to know you. So it's been

good to know you. So it's
been good. Deny this tasty dusts again

and I've Gotna be drifting along.
Sweetheart, sat in the dark and spark

they hard and kissed and that dusty
old dark they sided and cried, hugged

and kiss instead of marriage, they
talk like this, honey. So long

it's things. So it's been so
in all your dusty, all dusty is

again in my hot and I've gotta
be drifting along. Now the telephone ranging.

It jumped off the wall. That
was the preacher making is fault.

He said, confriend, this maybe
the end. You got your last chance

of salvation of Sin. The church
is was jam in the churches was packed.

That dusty old dust storm and blow
so black the preacher could not read

a word. It is text.
He folded his specs, took up collection

and say love, it's been good
to know you. So it's been good

to know you. So's this dusty, old dusty is a get in my

mouth. I've gotta be drifted a
long. So long it's been good and

know you. So it's been know
you. So lost ostas again in my

home and I'm gonna be drifted.
That was country Music Star Lean Womax.

Rendition of dusty, old dust.
Hello and welcome to another episode of kiss

the ground. We have a special
guest this week Mr Randall. Poster.

Randall is an American music supervisor and
longtime collaborator with film director West Anderson.

For anyone not familiar with what music
supervisors do, they are the person who

selects the songs to play during a
movie, Televin show or commercial. Some

of Randall's credits include skyfall, the
wolf of Wall Street and the Grand Budapest

hotel. Randall recently collaborated with kiss
the ground on a new project called home

in this world, woody guthries dust
bowl ballads. It's a track by track

recreation of Guthrie's one thousand, nine
hundred and forty dust bowl ballads album,

a collection of psalms about the economical
hardship of the Great Depression. Randall recruited

a diverse group of artists to revamp
the tracks on the record, while maintaining

the same message. Take care of
the earth before it's too late. Today

Randall is here to tell us about
the album's making, the critical message it

shares about regenerative agriculture and the artist
that he worked with to make it all

happen. My Life, my purpose
was to be a protector or to care

for whether Earth, for nature,
soil, really is the nutritional bank account

for our distance. Together we can
do something that we've never done before.

We can rebuild our ECO systems.
Are degraded soils and are degraded water cycles.

Freedom to me is the ability,
the right to be all of who

you are. I think we can
all do our roles, even if you're

not a farmer. From the words
of Roomy, let the beauty you love

be all that you do. There's
hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the

ground. Music and movies have always
been a central part of my life,

you know, ever since I was, you know, as long as I

can remember, and I really,
you know, had no predisposition to working

either in music or in film really
for for quite some time and just sort

of found myself out of college without
really a clear plan after college. Randall

initially planned to attend law school at
Brown, but after graduating he decided to

look for a project that would prolong
his start date. So the school that

I went to, Brown University,
had a radio station, wru. That

why I'd been a student there.
Had gone from being a free form student

run station to actually becoming a Fiftyzero
wa commercial radio station, and so friend

and I. We wrote a script
sort of about that transition and in a

way how it mirrored kind of the
death of the s ethos as it was

getting swallowed by Reaganism. And Well, we made this movie. We decided

we wanted to make this movie and
we we had the good fortune of being

accepted into the lab. It's Sundance
and at the Sundance Institute, and so

we were able to buy hooked by
Krook, put together a little bit of

a budget and shot this movie and
it was called a matter of degrees.

The Sun Dance Feature Film Program Labs
helps aspiring independent artist by giving them the

resources they need to bring their idea
to life. That gave us a certain

kind of credibility and allowed us to
really, you know, work on the

script and sort of develop our sense
of the kind of movie we were trying

to make. This all started happening
in one thousand nine hundred and ninety two,

around the time when college radio started
going by the title New Wave Music,

and so we had a lot of
sort of emerging bands who did new

songs for us, and I guess
the musical element was really sort of the

most it was. It was the
element of the movie that people most responded

to. We did a soundtrack album
on Atlantic records and I decided, over

the course of that time too,
that what I really wanted to do is

I wanted to work with great film
directors and that if I made music,

my bell weather and that would be
the point of contact and that would,

you know, enabled me to have
that potentially have those kinds of collaborations.

FLASH FORWARD TO PRESENT DAY. Randall
has now worked on over two hundred movies.

I've really had the opportunity to work
with, you know, a lot

of my favorite musicians, to place
a lot of my favorite songs. Randall

says the thing about music is you
carry it with you everywhere. Throughout his

career he has interacted with an abundance
of songs, each with its own story.

The first forty five I ever bought
was a song called laughing by this

band the guess who, and I
think it was probably four five years ago

I got to put that into a
movie called Christine that was directed by Antonio

Campos and and that was really a
thrill and really a fun sort of cinematic

moment. That was that was particular, particularly joyful for me. Following Randall's

supervision career, he began to take
on an entirely new project, creating a

track by track remake of Woody Guthrie's
dust bowl ballads. For everyone who isn't

familiar, Woody Guthrie is a singer
Songwriter wellknown for his significance in American folk

music. He was a poet who
spread messages about socialism antifascism and penned the

popular American ballot this land and is
your land. Why did Randall decide to

revive these songs half a century later? I'd always been a fan of Woody

Guthrie's and I think it was born
out of I'd been working on a project,

or sort of. I was thinking
more about what he got. Three

is strange enough. I was working
on a project that I was asked to

do for a record label of Hanka
songs with a holiday record. And the

thing about Hanakas there really isn't that
much repertoire to draw from, you know,

there aren't really that many standards,
and so some people wrote some things

and then, just in terms of
doing research, I found that woody Gutthree,

who was married to a Jewish woman, wrote Hannika songs with his motherin

law who was a songwriter, and
so they used to sit around the kitchen

table and write songs together and he
wrote this this this song that I used.

The Watkins family, our Herr on
the woody gut three record, did

called Hanaka dance, which I you
know, I was I kind of marveled

at at the existence of this repertoire
and I just sort of love that song.

It was probably my favorite song,
or one of my favorite songs on

that collection. So that was sort
of one one component of the of the

birth of the woody Gutthree Dost Ball
Ballads. And then I had been I

was producing a movie in two thousand
and nineteen called the devil all the time

Um, which was set in Ohio, the Hollers of Ohio in the S

S and S, and was listening
to a lot of music and and discovered

this band called the lost dog street
band and and really just was so moved

by their music that I just was
trying to figure out some way to do

something with them. The spark kind
of probably came at that moment when I

just thought, okay, lost dog
street band would he got three Dost Bowl

ballads and and so convinced record company
to give me some budget and just set

about, you know, making,
re remaking the record with, you know,

a different artist taking on each song
on the collection. The dust bowl

ballots was probably Guthrie's most successful album
during his career. It was known as

one of the first concept albums,
which means, well, you know,

just again, that he was with
each song, he was continuing the story.

You know, it was, it
was basically, you know, it

wasn't just a collection of random songs
or a collection of, you know,

new songs. It was, it
was, it was all thematic, you

know, and all inspire. You
know, I think, largely inspired by

John Steinbeck the Grapes of Breath and
basically told the story of the, you

know, of the of the Lahoma
Dust Bolt. Severe dust storms damage the

ecology and agriculture of America. In
the s there were four major drought episodes

that hit America over a decade,
and this album perfectly captures what America farm

life looked like during the Great Depression. Well, we may not be experiencing

severe drought now, the concept of
environmental degradation is just as urgent today as

it was in the s. But
I thought, I thought that the woody

gut three message was very relevant in
this moment of crisis. Right, and

so that really, to me,
was was was the the gas in the

tank, or the electricity in the
car, or or the or the motion

and on my bicycle or, you
know, the the the put the the

the pep into my step, howeveryone
went travels? Yeah, trying to be

carbon neutral. Yeah, so,
you know. So that that that was

really why I felt it was an
urgent thing to do and why I thought,

you know, it it wasn't just
dusting off musical antiques. I think

it was. It was channeling a
very clairvoyant spirit, you know, in

terms of the message. That was
the the under the undercurrent of the whole

woody gut three album. We that
one was dust bowl refugee by swamp dog

Randall, titled The recreation of this
famous album home in this world, Woody

Guthrie's dust bowl ballads. Well,
you know, there's a song that actually

the you know, there's something.
I ain't got no home in this world

anymore. And and so the title
was one that we generated and basically with

the with the notion that, you
know, through certain activities like regenerative agriculture.

We can turn this thing around right. So we in the sense is

that, rather than imaging be of, you know, a hay stack in

the in a hay stack crossing a
barren plane, you know, we wanted

to put forward an imagery of greenery
and hope, you know. So that

that kind of prompted the titling and
and and really, I think where there

is a connection between what we did
musically and the work of kiss the ground.

When a friend of Randall's brought the
kiss the ground project to his attention,

he said he knew immediately that he
wanted to support the mission anyway he

could. I organized the Documentary Film
Program at Brown University and we actually showed

kiss the ground to the kids there
and directors did a terrific talk afterwards.

There's an FDR quote from right after
the dust bowl that says a nation that

destroys their soil destroys them selves,
and here it kissed the ground. We

have another quote, which is a
nation that rebuilds their soil rebuilds themselves.

What do you gut? Threes alchemy
right where he's where he's taking these events

and transforming them into into into music, and and and and is telling the

tale lyrically. You know, I
think there's something hopeful about that. But

I think from this vantage point all
these years later, I think that,

you know, I think that what
we're tried that through the music, trying

to create awareness, further awareness of
some of the specific issues at hand and

and also provide, you know,
a direction, say to the organization,

to to learn about what, you
know, what you is an individual or

what we collectively can do to push
back against, you know, over over

farmed land or, you know,
to make people aware of how you might,

through biodiversity and regenerate agriculture, actually
push back against climate change. Randall

knew he was taking on a big
project, so he has surrounded himself with

people who could help him succeed.
He connected with Guthrie's daughter Nora, about

recreating her father's album. There's a
wonderful what he got through center in Tulsa,

Oklahoma, and you know, she
has a lot of administration to do

and just again, she promotes and
supports the memory of her father and her

father's activities and, you know,
keeping his his mission and message messages alive,

you know, and he was really
one of the I think, one

of the great foundations of American music
who you know, who died somewhat tragically

but really lived a very full life
and through his example, I think encourages

people to embrace life and to take
action against injustice and impropriety and and yet

manage to see the beauty and things
and to celebrate life and to maintain a

sense of humor in light of some
very sad and destructive realities. Would he

guthrie died of complications of Huntington's disease
on October three one thousand nine hundred and

sixty seven. So he was degenerating. You know, his physicality is,

mentals capacities were ultimately, you know, destroyed by Huntington's disease. So that

was a real tragedy. With the
help from Norah Randall was able to bring

a new appreciation of Guthrie's work.
You know, in terms of my movie

work, I've license would he guthrie
music before or so we had a little

bit of history and she's wonderful and
you know, I don't know if you

know, there's some great records.
Mean one of the things that people are

always surprised about when you talk about
what he guthrie is that he lived in

Coney Island, you know, and
you know where you imagine him. You

know, in the Midwest or wherever
it would be. But he lived in

Coney Island and there's a wonderful there. Two records, but the first time

this beautiful record called Mermaid Avenue,
where where the band will go along with

an artist in English arts seeming Billy
Brad took some of his leftover lyrics and

set them to music and really beautiful
record that I encourage people to listen to,

Mermaid Avenue. It's really really very
special record as well. Then Randall

had to begin to hunt for artists
to include on this record. Some of

the contributors Randall had found had worked
with him before, while others he had

never met. I mean, I
would say largely I've been sort of like

I mean, it's somewhat of a
selfish enterprise. I just saw it as

an opportunity to kind of work with
artist that I wanted to work with or

artist that, you know, I
was interested in, or artists who I

felt had really the right kind of
voices to to properly render these songs right.

So and again, when you start
to do these things, you ask

people and you see who starts to
accept your invitations and then you kind of

say, okay, how do I
how do I have some you know,

how do I have some diversity,
both, you know, musically and and

and culturally, you know, in
terms of in terms of helping to render

the complete picture of the dust bowl? So that's really I mean. In

a sense, that's kind of what
I did with with this record. Is

Is, you know, I chose
some people whose music I love and then

sort of followed the path that seemed
to emerge once we started to accumulate some

of the pieces. And again too, as far as like when the certain

songs were spoken for, right when
you knew, okay, that song is

you know, how do you how
do you make it so it would be

interesting and and musically compelling, so
somebody would want to listen through to the

whole listen through the whole record.
It tells a complete story. The record

includes a wide variety of contributors like
soul RMB singer, swamp dogs, Dust

Bowl refugee and indie artists, wax
the hatchees Talking Dust Bowl Blues. Back

in one thousand nine hundred and twenty
seven, I had a little farm that

I called Heaven will prop us is
up in the rain come down and I

hauled my crops all into town.
I got the money, bought clothes and

groceries, fed the kids and raised
a family. Well, the rain quitting

the wing got high in the black
old dust storm filled the sky and I

swapped my farm for a Ford machine
and I poured it full of this gas

aleen. I started rocking in a
roll over the mountains, out toward the

old peach bowl, way up yonder
on a mountain road. I had a

hot and motor and a heavy load. Got It going pretty fast. It

wasn't even stopping and bouncing up and
down like popcorn popping ahead of breakdown,

sort of a nervous breakdown of some
kind. There was a fella there,

mechanic feller, said it was a
inme trouble, way up yonder on a

mountain curve, way up beyond her
in the Piny Wood. I gave that

rolling for to shove and was it
going to coast. As far as I

could commenced coasted. Picking up speed
was a hairpin turn. I didn't make

it man alive, I'm telling you, and the fiddles and the guitars really

flew and that board took off like
flying squirrel and they flew halfway around the

world, scattered wives of children all
over the sad that mountain. We got

out to the West Coast broke so
dag I'm hungry I thought I'd Croak.

So bummed up a splutter two and
my wife fixed up a tators too poured

the kids full of it. Mighty
things to though. You can read a

magazine right through it. Always figured
that. I if it'd been just a

little bit thinner, some of these
here politicians could have seen right. That

song was dust bowl blues by wax
of hatchy. I was very excited to

work with wax of hatchie. You
know, I've been listening to a lot

of her last record, or I
mean a lot of is also we recorded

this during the pandemic, right.
So you know, I was listening to

her last record a lot and just
thought again. I mean in a sense

they're very simple songs in many ways, but they're very wordy songs and you

know, and and so I think
it's it's it takes a certain artist who's

both brave enough and sensitive enough to
the music that they'll they're willing to get

in the ring with what he got
three right. It's a it can be

a bit intimidating. You know,
those are pretty those are pretty definitive versions

of the songs and there his songs. So, you know, I think

that I think we did it successfully, you know, and again, people

were people were restricted by virtue of, you know, not being able necessarily

to work with any other with with
other musicians or, you know, couldn't

go into necessarily go into a recording
studios. Pretty much just letting people do

their thing. You know, I
think a couple of people were able under

the circumstances they lived that they were
or they had student you know, they

had studios that they were able to
access. Right. John Paul White,

I think, got into the studio. The secret sisters got into a studio

and and then otherwise, you know, people would you know, there are

a couple of tracks where with them
the wonders of modern technology where, you

know, you could a drummer would
put something on the track and then they

pass it off to the guitar player, who then would pass it off to

the singer or, you know,
one way or another, right that people

would send the tracks to each other
and just each record their parts at home,

you know. So it was recorded
probably in every way possible in terms

of all these songs. It was
a longer process than expected but Randall said,

it made finishing the album that much
more gratifying. And and when I

basically when I told the president the
record company that the record was done,

he couldn't believe it because it's like
we did it during the pain. It

happened during the pandemic, you know. And it wasn't just like one artist

at all I made a record.
It was like getting fourteen artists that they

would, you know, to do
it. All fourteen artists have not been

in the same room at the same
time since starting and completing this album.

They're basically all over the place.
Katie lives in Missouri. Jo Paul White

lives in Alabama. I think the
secret sisters live in Alabama. The felice

brothers live in upstate New York.
I believe Leanne will MAC lives in Nashville.

Swamp dog lives in California. Mark
Lanigan is moved to Europe. Parker

MILLSAP, he's from Oklahoma. That
was that was a connection that I wanted

to make, but still gathering everyone
together under one roof to perform the album

live would be a dream. And
really it's so tough with you know.

I mean I've just got I've gone
to my first live performance this week.

Right there's the first time in whatever
two years that I've been out hearing music

in person. And so I think
when the opening came for people to go

out and tour or to be able
to play dates, everybody had their own

things that they had to get moving
on. It means, for instance,

like Katie had this waxahatchie record that
she really didn't get to properly promote and

once once the once the shoot open, she was she was out there promoting

her right. I mean I would
love at some point for there to be,

you know, a concert, but
it you know, everybody is just

struggling to get back on their feet
and get, you know and normalize their

their musical activities and and and really
the gift that they gave me and gave

the world was just spending the time
and and and and recording these these songs,

you know. And like I said, they're not easy songs, you

know, they're simple, they're sent
there's a certain simplicity to them, but

they're not easy and and and you
really have to. You can't fake it,

you know you can't. You can't. You can't just sort of sing

through it. You have to sing
with it. So and I think everybody

did that. Does kill my baby, but I can't kill me love and

I can't kill me. That old
storm kill my family, but it can't

kill me, Lord, and I
can't kill me. Well that you got

my home ski, but he can't
give me Lord. Can that old drpell

kill my Crop Boys gonna. Can
Kill Me Lord, and I can't kill

me. Got My home boy,
but it can't give me Lord, and

I can't give me. Let all
try to get on my house down,

but I can't give me and I
can't give me Shaw. Got My furniture,

but it can't give me Lord.
caking me that old how way.

Got My relatives, but I can't
get me Lord. Get Me, kill

my wee, but I can't kill
me. Lord. And get you many

a dust, but I can't give
me. Boys and I can't kill me

that. I'll dust store full up, bout my farm down, but I

can't blow me down. Can't blow
me down, blow this world down,

but I can't blow me down and
I can't kill me, kill my baby,

but I can't kill me, I
can't give me, I can't.

That was dust can't kill me by
the secret sisters. The songs on the

dust bull ballot went on to become
some of Guthrie's most wellknown works. So

in Randall decide to recreate the album
with a modern twist. The challenge was

living up to Gutthrie's fans expectations.
A concern with doing a record like this

is is that people sort of,
you know, say Oh, it doesn't

measure up to the original. Right, and and I think that people basically

have talked about how it compliments the
the the the the original recordings and and

and appreciate the renditions, you know, and and and I think people do

appreciate the relevance to the moment and
the connection to the cause. And,

you know, I just have to
be steadfast and and pushing it forward because,

you know, it's crowded out there
for people's attention and especially still this

is still such a strange time.
You know the way people are consuming things

and you know what they are and
aren't open to. The album was released

in September, two thousand and twenty
one. But Randall said, the positive

reviews have already started pouring in and
he's not stopping there. Randall has big

plans to keep taking the album to
new heights. I'm pushing, you know,

I'm pushing the label and I'm,
you know, doing interviews and and,

you know, reviews are starting to
come in, which all have been

very positive, you know, and
and hopefully opportunities like talking to you helps

reach, you know, I think, an audience that would be interested in

this, in this repertoire. You
know, I've done some really unique things

in terms of getting, you know, the record company to directly support kiss

the ground, and I have them. They basically sourced some seeds that they're

going to you know, Agatha Hannah. She directed us to a friend who

distributes Short's has a seed company,
and I got the record company to buy

seeds that they're going to send along
with the with the album, to people

and press and tastemakers and hopefully there
can be some we can link them to

instructive videos to figure out how how
to plant them and and encourage people to

plant them. So I mean it's
it's the answer. I guess is that

I'm doing everything I can to make
people aware of, you know, aware

of the music and the and the
relevance of it and the and how the

kiss the ground mission compliments it and, you know what, we'll see.

We'll see how it goes. All
he asks for those listening is to go

out there and support this music and
support the cause. All these artists were

taking every opportunity unity when the when
they have it to to try to go

and and go go places where they're
able to play, you know, whether

it's playing some European dates, but
you know, it's been stopped and go.

So it's a really, really challenging
time for working musicians. So,

you know, I really encourage people, when they have the opportunity, to

go out and hear music and support
local artists and the artist that they love

and the artist that they like and
go out and buy this record and and

talk about it with your friends and
family and, you know, buy some

copies for Christmas and support kiss the
ground and, you know, worked in

and and work as a community together
to, you know, make the world

a better place to live. So
how does Randall kiss the ground? Kissing

the ground, you know, on
occasion. I kiss the ground by by

composting and I kiss the ground by
sinking my feet into the ground and I

kiss the ground by hugging trees and
I kiss the ground by growing milkweed and

I kiss the ground by by encouraging
people to kiss the ground
Kiss the Ground w/ Ryland Engelhart
The essence of the work of Kiss the Ground is this deep reverence for life. A conversation about ecology, soil, trees, and all the layers of the biology and living th... View More

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