The Almanac Singers: Which Side Are You On? (1941-42) 2006

subtitled: The Best of the Almanac Singers

Which Side Are You On

Track list:

01. Ground Hog
02. Ride An Old Paint
03. Hard, Ain’t It Hard
04. House Of The Rising Sun
05. Babe O’Mine
06. State Of Arkansas
07. Side By Side
08. Away Rio
09. Blow The Man Down
10. Blow Ye Winds Heigh Ho
11. The Coast Of High Barbary
12. The Golden Vanity
13. Haul Away Joe
14. The Sinking Of The Reuben James
15. union Maid
16. Talking union
17. All I Want
18. Get Thee Behind Me Satan
19. Song For Bridges
20. Which Side Are You On?
21. The Dodger Song
22. Plow Under
23. Liza Jane
24. Deliver The Goods
25. Billy Boy
26. Belt-Line Girl
27. Ballad Of October
28. Washington Breakdown
29. Round And Round Hitler’s Grave
30. C For Conscription
31. The Strange Death Of John Doe


Woody Guthrie
Millard limpell
Bess Lomax Hawes
Baldwin ‘Butch’ Hawes
Pete Seeger
Arthur Stern
Lee Hays
Agnes ‘Sis’ Cunningham

Songs for John Doe:
Released: May 1941
Recorded: A Central Park West studio, New York, Late March or early April 1941
Label: Almanac Records 102
Producer: Erin Barnay
Album credits: Pete Seeger – vocal, banjo; Lee Hays – vocal; Millard Lampell – vocal; Josh White – vocal, guitar; Sam Gary – vocal.

Talking Union & Other Union Songs:
Released: 1941
Label: Keynote K-106 / Smithsonian Folkways FH 5285 [1955]
Producer: Eric Bernay
Album credits: Pete Seeger – vocal, banjo; Lee Hayes – vocal Millard Lampell – vocal; Josh White – vocal, guitar; Sam Gary, Carol White, Bess Lomax Hawes, vocal.

Deep Sea Chanteys and Whaling Ballads:
Released: 1941
Recorded: July 7, 1941
Label: General
Producer: Alan Lomax
Line-up: Millard Lampell, Lee Hays, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.

Sod Buster Ballads:
Released: 1941
Label: General
Producer: Alan Lomax
Line-up: Woody Guthrie, Millard Lampell, Lee Hays and Pete Seeger.

Dear Mr. President:
Released: 1942
Label: Keynote K – 111
Producer: Alan Lomax
Album credits: Pete Seeger – vocal, banjo; Millard Lampell – vocal; Arthur Stern – vocal; Agnes “Sis” Cunningham – accordion, vocal; Bess Lomax Hawes – vocal, mandolin; Baldwin “Butch” Hawes – vocal, guitar.


This Compilation:
Released: October 30, 2006
Label: Rev-Ola Records [cherryred]

Liner Notes: Nicole Garcia


As much a political and philosophical collective as they were an actual singing group, the Almanac Singers, whose entire recorded output was done in the span of a year between March 1941 and February 1942, were in many ways the godfathers of the urban folk revival that broke into the commercial radar (and the pop charts) two decades later.

Anchored by the hybrid banjo sound (part Appalachian, part his own invention) of Pete Seeger, the group also included, at one point or another, Lee Hays, Millard Lampell, Bess Lomax, Arthur Stern, Sis Cunningham, Josh White and his wife Carol White, and when it suited him, Woody Guthrie, who famously noted that the Almanac Singers were “the only group in the world that rehearsed on stage.”

A lesson in applied folk song, the group played Southern folk songs given a whole new utility by being filtered through a left-leaning political agenda and a strong belief in the power of labor unions.

The Almanac Singers may have sounded like a stylized and urban version of a mountain string band, but they were hardly the folks you’d call to play a Saturday night sugaree.

Hit the picket line on Monday morning, though, and this was your band.

This 31-track, single-disc set from Britain’s Rev-Ola Records contains virtually everything of note that the Almanac Singers recorded, including an intimate, unassuming version of Guthrie’s “Hard, Ain’t It Hard,” a decidedly non-blues take on “House of the Rising Sun,” and a stirring rendition of “The Sinking of the Rueben James.”

The sound is wonderful, bringing out the loose (and as Guthrie reminds) unrehearsed intimacy that was the Almanac Singers greatest strength.

Everything you need is here.
~steve Leggett[]