Woody Guthrie and The Dust Bowl Ballads

Graphic novelist Nick Hayes has created Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl Ballads, a visual biography of the folk hero who captured the imagination of his generation and many others since.

The two-colour book holds within its pages a tremendous sense of time and place – a 1930s America rocked by the Great World Recession and, as its title suggests, the Dust Bowl, an unforgiving drought which compounded the problem.

The brown and black illustration not only serves to create a sepia-like filter, which take us back to an old America, but it also reminds us how divisive, dangerous and bleak a place this could be.

Hayes has set out on an ambitious path and creates a vivid and unforgiving picture of America, that feels like it owes some debt to the spirit of John Steinbeck or Ernest Hemingway.

Thankfully it’s not all unrelenting doom and gloom as the warm spirited Guthrie, his musicality and his moral compass guide us through the various injustices he encounters.

Throughout the book he muddles through factory farms and migrant camps of California surviving (just) the fallout of industrialisation and the emerging injustices of capitalism.

Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl Ballads by Nick Hayes, is published on 25 September by Jonathan Cape, priced £20

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