Often called the “finest folk troubadour of our time,” John McCutcheon is returning by popular demand to the Sebastiani Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 13.
McCutcheon’s music conveys the message that the global family can make the world a better place by working together. Throughout his 30-plus year career, McCutcheon has built a bridge across generations. He first performed in elementary schools, not in bars. Called a musician for the ages in all of its meanings, he draws no lines between children and adults – anyone who enjoys the honest rewards of folk music is welcome and people of all ages rush to hear him perform.
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.” During 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. With these he weaves tales as modern fables, rich in history and universal scope.
The lifelong interest in music of this 58-year-old 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 1960s radio, and knew something else 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. Songwriting, storytelling, social activism all met and finally made sense.
McCutcheon’s concerts are international sold-out hits. He has recorded with Paul Simon and Mary Chapin Carpenter and made numerous appearances on National Public Radio. He has produced more than 25 albums in as many years, has been featured on public radio throughout the world, has garnered five consecutive Grammy nominations and received every imaginable award in the independent record industry. He has brought joy to millions of listeners from Seattle to Sydney.
Additionally, he has written for numerous publications, produced documentary and educational recordings, 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.
The Washington Post has calls his concerts “little feats of magic” while others have referred to him as “the most versatile man in folk music.” John McCutcheon is a favorite, not only because he always has the best songs, but also because of his overall delivery and on-stage personality. Often interspersed with the music-making are stories of how he happened to find or write his music.
In his songs and banter, McCutcheon is a life-affirming marvel. To say John McCutcheon is versatile is an understatement.
A master musician, storyteller, stand-up comic, political commentator, and sing-along leader with broad appeal to audiences of all ages, McCutcheon’s amazing versatility demonstrates he is truly a one-man folk music renaissance.
Admission is $22. Reserved seating tickets are available in Sonoma at Readers’ Books and at the Sebastiani Theatre, 476 First St. E., at 996-9756. VISA and MasterCard are accepted.