Woodstock artist to hit Barrymore
Political musician and storyteller Arlo Guthrie brings festival's
spirit to Madison
By Sarah Witman
October 18, 2009
Yes, Arlo Guthrie's two-part "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" is 18
minutes and 20 seconds long; yes, that is also the length of the
missing footage from the Watergate tapes.
Coincidence? He thinks not. Guthrie, endearing political musician and
storyteller of the '60s, has not only recently released Tales of '69,
an album of lost recordings from his Woodstock days, but will also be
performing at Madison's Barrymore Theatre Oct. 20.
This is no shy attempt to recapture yesteryear, however. Guthrie will
be bringing his family along for his North American "Guthrie Family
Rides Again" tour, each of whom outdo themselves in carrying on the
Guthrie family tradition of brilliant and captivating musical
abilities, which he says started even before his father, Woody
Guthrie, of "This Land is Your Land" fame. In an interview with The
Badger Herald, Guthrie discussed his fans, his long career and what
audiences should expect at the show.
"Something I've had follow me over my career is that it's a very wide
range of audience; there are people on the left, people on the right,
people who have money, people who have nothing," said Guthrie. "You
don't see that kind of mixed crowd at a lot of events these days.
There's nothing targeted to everybody hardly anymore. There are a lot
of people that end up singing together at one of our shows that
wouldn't be seen talking to each other on the street; I love that."
With life moving so quickly these days, going through old home videos
or photo albums is always a great way to relive and cling to precious
memories of the past to see life as it once was. However, when you
are the family Guthrie, these endeavors hold a much greater
entertainment value. While looking through multitudes of boxes on the
family farm, hoping to salvage the aging magnetic recording tape, the
children and grandchildren of Arlo Guthrie stumbled upon several
historic recordings of their relative that soon turned into the
artist's most recent album release, Tales of '69. The collection
celebrates the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, an era Guthrie looks
back upon fondly.
"I think the biggest chunk of that record was fairly funny stuff at
the time; I don't know if it's as funny as it was then. I think one
of the reasons we put it out was because it was so early in my career
that it was a funny little window into a time that I had forgotten
about," he said.
Guthrie recalls that this tour is an achievement that his father
always wanted to make happen. Woody Guthrie gave rise to a definite
folk movement in the U.S. along with Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and many
others, yet the one thing he hoped to accomplish with his family had
to wait a generation to become a reality.
"That was a dream that he had that he never got to live," Guthrie
said. "I remember as a kid him saying he wanted to have a whole lot
of kids and take them all out, run around doing shows and
performances, so we're living a dream that he had. And I think he's
still with us somewhere, just enjoying this very much."
One way the family will be memorializing its beloved father,
grandfather and great-grandfather is adding a series of songs to
their playlist, written to accompany unpublished lyrics by Woody
Guthrie some of which were written in his last days. While Arlo
doesn't think performing his father's lyrics would "impress him all
that much," the fact that the words of this national icon can finally
be presented musically to an audience is, at any rate, a gift to
America in itself. Aside from Arlo, artists such as Wilco, Billy
Bragg, Eliza Gilkyson, Wenzel, Janis Ian and The Klezmatics have
written and produced entire albums of music from the inspiring lyrics
of Woody Guthrie.
"There's everything from Native American chant dancers to German
cabaret punk bands; it's a very wide brush that we're painting with.
My sister, Nora, invited them into the Woody Guthrie archives to go
through the material and see if there was something in there that
jumped off the page and into their soul; something that they related
to," Arlo said. "There was enough there for all of these different
artists to do a few songs, a few records. What we're doing [on the
tour] is not just a lot of our own songs, but we're doing a lot of
this material as a way to say thank you to all of these fabulous
artists who have contributed to the Woody Guthrie song collection."
Madison has so much to offer on the live entertainment scene, yet
this show still manages to raise high above the norm. Passing up the
chance to see the Guthrie family "ride again" would be a critical
mistake just ask those who opted out of going to "that concert" in '69.
Arlo Guthrie will be performing at the Barrymore Theatre Oct. 20.
Tickets are $30 in advance.
When: 10/20/09 @ 7:30pm
"Guthrie Family Rides Again"
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
2090 Atwood Ave
Tickets: $30 Ticket Info: 608 241-2345, http://barrymorelive.com
Showtime: 7:30 pm
"The Guthries are the first family of American folk. They practice
what Woody preached." -Vanity Fair
"...the biggest treat was the encore, one of Woody's last lyrics,
written when he was in the hospital in the early '60s, with the music
added later by Arlo, a little-known but beautiful, spiritual song
called 'My Peace.' And the audience left in peace, knowing that
Guthrie music is alive and well, and that the legacy is in good
hands." -Robert Price, New Jersey Herald
On Oct. 20, folk music icon Arlo Guthrie will perform alongside three
generations of Guthries as the "Guthrie Family Rides Again" tour hits
the Barrymore Theatre in Madison.
Arlo Guthrie carries on the Guthrie Family legacy as he travels to
communities far and wide sharing timeless stories and unforgettable
classic tunes. A celebrated artist in American music, his artistic
ventures help bridge an often-divided world through his powerful
spirit of song. "Guthrie Family Rides Again" brings his singular
voice as both a singer-songwriter and social commentator to the stage
alongside his beloved children and grandkids.
The concerts on the upcoming "Guthrie Family Rides Again" tour will
feature Arlo's standards as well as a selection of unpublished Woody
Guthrie lyrics recently put to music by such distinguished artists as
Billy Bragg, Wilco, Eliza Gilkyson, Janis Ian, Wenzel, The Klezmatics
and others. With many notable musicians from around the world
contributing to keep the work of Woody Guthrie alive and well, the
Guthrie Family will pay tribute to these artists as they perform some
of the newly composed tunes.
"Guthrie Family Rides Again" spotlights three generations of Guthries
including Arlo's son Abe, who has contributed keyboards and backing
vocals to his father's live shows since the '80s. His daughters
Cathy, Annie and Sarah Lee Guthrie, all of who have their own
bustling music careers, will support by singing songs and
accompanying on acoustic guitars. Sarah Lee's musical partner and
husband Johnny Irion will lead songs and lend his stalwart guitar
playing. The youngest generation of Guthrie kids will join in the fun
on select songs.
In celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock, Arlo's
family-run label Rising Son Records released Arlo Guthrie: Tales of
'69 (Release Date: August 18, 2009). Recorded just prior to
Woodstock, the recently discovered lost tape highlights Arlo live in
concert in Long Island, NY and features nine tracks including an epic
28-minute talking blues tale as well as three previously unrecorded songs.
In September 2009, Rising Son will release In Times Like These (2007)
on vinyl. A compelling collection of original songs and select
American classics performed by Arlo and the University of Kentucky
Symphony Orchestra, In Times Like These marks the culmination of
Arlo's ambitious work with 27 different symphony orchestras and more
than 40 live concerts. His show at Boston Symphony Hall, conducted by
Keith Lockhart, was recorded and aired on PBS's Evening at the Pops.
In 2001, the Fourth of July celebration with the Pops was broadcasted
live by A&E.
To commemorate Arlo and his family's imprint on American culture and
ongoing social and musical influence, the Guthrie Family was featured
in Vanity Fair (November 2007) as part of the "Music Portfolio Series
on Folk Legends," a series featuring leaders in different musical
genres. A legendary American folk music pioneer, Arlo Guthrie
perseveres through the times leaving a lasting impression of hope and
Arlo Guthrie's family affair
Some musicians travel with a big entourage, but it's hard to top Arlo
The son of folk icon Woody Guthrie heads into Mount Pleasant's
Soaring Eagle Casino on Friday with three generations of Guthries for
"The Guthrie Family Rides Again." Among the tribe: Arlo's son Abe,
daughters Sarah Lee, Annie and Cathy, and Sarah Lee's husband Johnny
Irion, with whom she performs.
"We have guitars, autoharps, mandolins, ukeleles, my four kids,"
Guthrie, 62, says, calling from home in Massachusetts. Counting the
grandkids, there might be four generations of Guthries onstage if a
tape of Woody Guthrie's voice is played onstage, something they often do.
"Yes, and even the youngest of them will make a brief appearance,"
Guthrie says. "Marjorie, my daughter Cathy's daughter is 2, and
Sophie, Sarah Lee's daughter is also 2. So we have a couple of
2-year-olds we'll drag out to sing on one or two songs then they can
go backstage to play. No one is expected to be professional so much
as join in."
That philosophy comes directly from Woody Guthrie, the Dust Bowl
troubadour who sang countless folk and blues songs, and wrote such
classics as "This Land is Your Land." The elder Guthrie felt that
music was for everybody, not just people you pay to go hear in a concert hall.
Before radio and television, that's what families did, Arlo agrees.
"But then people started buying into prepackaged music," Guthrie
says. "Then there was this big folk revival in the '50s. There's
still all these people playing nowadays, but they do it with other
kids in the neighborhood."
Guthrie has high hopes for the younger generation.
"When I was a kid, we had 40 years of recorded music to listen to.
Before that, there's no recorded music, you don't hear the songs the
pharaohs were singing. Today, young people have twice as much stuff
to listen to. The result is their musicianship is twice as good as
mine was. That 13-year-old kid can play circles around me!"
The Guthrie family has several generations of songs to choose from.
In addition to the classics, they'll play some of the unfinished
Woody Guthrie songs that were completed by such artists as Billy
Bragg, Wilco, Janis Ian and the Klezmatics several years ago.
Arlo Guthrie also has his own cache of classics, including "The City
of New Orleans," "Coming into Los Angeles" and "The Motorcycle Song."
One he won't be performing is 1967's "Alice's Restaurant Massacree."
It takes so long to sing, he only does it during special anniversary tours.
Guthrie likens it to the kind of big concert the Carter Family used
to do (later, the Cash-Carter clan).
"We really look up to the Carter Family, the first family of American
folk music," Guthrie says. "I met them years ago, after A.P. Carter
passed away, I got to meet Mother Maybelle and the family when I did
the Johnny Cash TV show in Nashville in the '60s."
It's said the melody of "This Land Is Your Land" is based upon an old
Carter Family song, which in turn probably originated in the hills of
"The Carter Family were really heroes to my father. They were willing
to sing these old songs and not be part of the music industry. They
sang the tough sad songs of the lives they'd lived. That was the way
people knew what was going on, long before TV and electricity, it was
through the songs and ballads that you would remember the history of
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