"We recorded this album during the summer and fall of 1991. But it actually began years ago, when, as a small child, I first fell in love with these songs. I remember listening to Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Cisco Houston, my father, Woody Guthrie, and many others singing them. I have waited a long time to make a record of these kinds of songs. That time has finally come. I've made lots of records for everybody else. I made this one for me.
"Ramblin' Jack taught me "Ridin' Down the Canyon", "South Coast" and "Old Paint". But more than teaching me the words, Jack taught me how to make these songs come alive. Jack's versions may not match the original way they were written, but I chose to follow his versions, especially after we tracked down some of the originals. Sometimes, it creates confusion. In Jack's "South Coast", the singer identifies himself as Lonhano de Castro. I'd never heard that name before. The name in the official version is Juanano de Castro. We wrote it one way and sang it the other.
"Cisco Houston taught me how important it is to keep it simple. What makes theses songs so powerful is the stories they tell. I like hearing the stories more than the arrangements. I've tried to keep it simple and still be interesting musically. There is not a lot of studio magic here, it's all real.
"My father taught me to distrust everything anybody else taught me. I rearranged his songs and stories to fit the way I remembered hearing them.
"I grew up listening to these guys sing these songs and the older I get, the more I realize how important it is for us to hand down these stories and songs to future generations. Some people think a folksinger is someone who just sings their own songs. That's a shame. It's like being of the tradition, rather than in it. I've taught myself to make any song I like, my own. This is the secret of all great spiritual teachings: claim nothing as yours and everything belongs to you. If it doesn't make sense, it's probably true. "
- Arlo Guthrie -