As important as Robert Johnson was to blues, Woody Guthrie expanded the range of folk music during the first half of the 20th century. Yet much has been said of his mythical persona, leftist influence, communist leanings, rambling lifestyle, identity politics and heart for the poor.
The music is sometimes forgotten. When he wasn't busy speaking for a generation -- essentially soundtracking the work of Dorothea Lange -- he laid down some of our nation's most lasting folk songs. He had a knack for arrangement, a sense of humor, a true rustic earthiness and a genuine empathy for the migrant workers he befriended during the '30s and '40s.
If you can't spring for the excellent Asch Recordings box set, this is good sampler.