Ron Olesko asked me a specific question, to which I wanted to respond. I did see the Woody Guthrie tribute in Nashville and I enjoyed it. I loved Wentzel but was unable to get into the piece by Rob Wasserman and DJ Logic. In the latter case, the sounds just didn't please my ears and I couldn't properly hear the words coming from the taped voice of Studs Terkel. That's just subjective aesthetics, however. I have no philosophical problem with the fact that they gave the Guthrie lyrics their own spin.
I do think that taking bits of something already recorded and incorporating that into a new piece is different from performing your own interpretation of someone else's lyrics. Songs are meant to be sung, and every singer will interpret them differently. Guthrie was an unabashed song "stealer" himself. In the two particular cases under discussion, I believe that Guthrie never even recorded the songs or gave them melodies. They existed only as lyrics, wide open for musical interpretation. (I know that was true of several pieces performed that night, and I think these two were among them.)
That said, I went into the panel on Remixing Lomax quite skeptical, and emerged content with what they are doing. The argument that affects me the most stems from the truth--largely unfamiliar to me--that sampling is rampant today among younger folks making music. It's a mark of respect for the work sampled. It shows that that earlier work has pride of place among the countless cultural referents that float around us. That approach is (at least to me) a relatively new thing. So I oughta get used to it, I say to myself, cause it does have positive meaning to those doing it, and those digging it.
I'm troubled by the fact that they may distort a vocal line, though the techies at the seminar said some of that is inherent in sampling--the need to make an evenly metered vocal loop or some such thing (over my non-techie head). So be it. I've lost count of the folkies older than me (I'm 48) who admit they got into trad music because of the Kingston Trio, etc. It will happen for a new generation, just through different types of interpretation. Don't like it, don't buy it, but the old will stay around--probably longer if we don't let it gather dust.
By the way, the still unreleased Rounder project is called Tangle Eye (another attendee heard "Tangled" Eye--maybe they're right).