By Sam McDonald
Published: February 27, 2009
HAMPTON, Va. Arlo Guthrie makes music with personality and purpose.
He continues a family tradition passed on to him by his father,
Okemah native Woody Guthrie, one of America's most beloved songsters.
But Arlo has always been his own man. Guthrie recently answered
questions about his music and the modern world.
Q: Tell me about your newest album, "Thirty-Two Cents."
A: Last year we released a record of my dad's stuff that I recorded
in a studio with the band The Dillards. We actually made it 10 years
ago and just released it last year. ... It was intended to coincide
with my dad's being on a postage stamp. We called it "Thirty-Two
Cents" because that's what the stamps were worth. We finally released
it in 2008. … it's really a live recording.
Q: These are tough times. Your father sang songs that spoke to people
who were suffering. Do you do the same?
A: That is the one silver lining in these kind of clouds: That you
realize how powerful songs can be. They have the power to make life a
little more bearable. ... For that reason ...we're doing a family
tour that will feature a lot more of dad's stuff, with just the family.
Q: What made your dad's Dust Bowl ballads so memorable?
A: The one thing he did that never goes out of style is that, in his
songs and in his books and in his life, he really tried to give
people the feeling of the value they have as an individual, and not
to lose sight of that.
Q: What did you think of the "Mermaid Avenue" albums, which took
Woody Guthrie lyrics and set them to new music?
A: I loved the first of the series. There were two that came out. I
thought the first one was by far the better one. One of the things
that I'm itching to do is to do a tour with a lot of those songs … So
what we're putting together is "The Family Reunion" tour that starts
in June … I don't think anyone's put together the wealth of stuff for
one show. I think it could be amazing.