Songs of American life

TONIGHT. A singer of American stories, John McCutcheon, in the honored tradition of folk music, shares tales laced with pain and protest, humor and hope. The songwriter and multi-instrumentalist returns to the Sebastiani Theatre for a concert on Monday, January 13 at 7:30 p.m.

During his performances, McCutcheon switches skillfully from banjo, to guitar, jaw harp, fiddle, auto harp, and piano. He is also recognized as a master of the hammer dulcimer, America’s only traditional mallet instrument. All in all, he says, “It’s a veritable circus of stuff.”

He has appeared with Pete Seeger, with whom he is often compared, Arlo Guthrie, and Johnny Cash, who once called McCutcheon “the most impressive instrumentalist I’ve ever heard.”

A lifelong interest in music for the Wisconsin-born, Blue Ridge Mountain-based folk minstrel was sparked in part by the civil rights movement. McCutcheon heard the songs of the Dust Bowl refugees, the “Grapes of Wrath” stories that cracked on the airwaves of the early 1960’s radio, and knew something else, something bigger, was going on.

While still a college student, the oldest of a large Irish Catholic family, McCutcheon took up the banjo and, 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.

Throughout his career, McCutcheon has built a bridge across generations with his unique blend of songwriting, storytelling and social activism. Performing solo, McCutcheon owns the stage as a master musician, storyteller, stand-up comic, political commentator and even sing-along leader in a show with broad appeal to audiences of all ages.

He has recorded with Paul Simon and Mary Chapin Carpenter and made numerous appearances on National Public Radio. He has produced over twenty-five albums in as many years, has been featured on public radio throughout the world, has garnered an amazing five consecutive Grammy nominations and received every imaginable award in the independent record industry.

Admission is $22. Reserved seating tickets available at Readers’ Books and at the Sebastiani Theatre, 476 First Street East. 996-9756.

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