Various Artists

Classic Labor Songs from Smithsonian Folkways

Smithsonian Folkways offers the real deal when it comes to Americana—its Anthology of American Folk Music, a $79 six-CD boxed set, is an Americana-lover’s dream, if a bit on the pricey side. As proof that good union songs are not a thing of the last century, this more affordable new release has tunes like “VDT” and “Carpal Tunnel” as examples of the reasons that unions are still necessary, if endangered. But the historical songs are awe-inspiring; from the basso profundo opening notes of the legendary Paul Robeson’s “Joe Hill,” it only gets better. They’ve rounded up the usual laboring suspects: Pete Seeger re-envisions American folk hero Casey Jones as a scab; Woody Guthrie’s ballad “1913 Massacre” memorializes the bad old days. Also, who wants to live without “Bread and Roses”?