John McCutcheon appears in a solo concert at the Nelson Town Hall on Friday, July 10, 8:00 PM. Admission is $18/$15(senior, youth).
John McCutcheon wasn’t supposed to become a folksinger. He was headed for a lucrative career as a social worker in migrant labor camps. But Woody Guthrie got there first. He heard the songs of the Dust Bowl refugees, the Grapes of Wrath stories that crackled on the airwaves of early 1960s radio and knew something else was going on. While still a college student, the oldest of a large Irish Catholic family, John took up the banjo “to help keep myself sane” and went off the deep end. He heard recordings of Roscoe Holcomb and Clarence Ashley, walked out to the end of the college road, stuck out his thumb and never looked back.
He ended up roaming the Appalachians, trading a university classroom for the front porches, picket lines, union halls, churches, and square dance barns of his adopted home. Under the tutelage of some of the greats of traditional Southern music he quickly mastered seven different instruments, became an insightful and powerful singer of traditional songs, and honed an ear for a good story. Songwriting, storytelling, social activism all met and finally made sense.
From this series of chance beginnings John McCutcheon has become what one Australian paper called “the most overwhelming folk performer in the English language.” His mastery of American folk music and instruments, complemented by “storytelling that has the richness of fine literature” (Washington Post) weave intimate, insightful and often hilarious canvasses on which McCutcheon draws his vision of Americana. His songwriting, rich in detail and broad in scope, have created a catalog of hundreds of songs covered by performers throughout the world. His classic Christmas in the Trenches has been repeatedly cited as “the greatest anti-war song ever written” and is the subject of an annual, coast-to-coast special on CBC.
His concerts are international sold-out hits from Russia … where Pravda noted “McCutcheon … is the most versatile and compelling performer this reviewer has ever seen”… to Dallas …“calling John McCutcheon a ‘folksinger’ is like saying Deion Sanders is just a football player …” Dallas Morning News. Critics reserve their most lavish praise for his mastery of the rare and beautiful hammer dulcimer, an instrument on which he is an undisputed world master.
Equally at home in the recording studio, John has produced over twenty-five albums in as many years. He has garnered an amazing five consecutive Grammy nominations, been awarded every imaginable award in the independent record industry, been featured on public radio throughout the world, and brought joy to millions of listeners from Seattle to Sydney. Additionally he has produced documentary and educational recordings, written for numerous publications, authored children’s books, chaired literacy campaigns, championed grassroots organizations throughout the world, promoted international musicians, and is even currently the president of the most innovative and fastest growing local in the musicians union.