by Adam McKinney for OLY ARTS
Since his emergence on the folk scene in the ’70s, John McCutcheon has not only been one of the most respected songwriters and instrumentalists out there, but he’s also been one of the most prolific. The man nailed a stone cold genre classic in 1977 with “The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” and he hasn’t stopped creating since. Just over 40 years later, he’s releasing his 39th album, “Ghost Light.”
“I didn’t know what number it was, until my publicist pointed it out,” says McCutcheon. “She said, ‘You’ve got one more than Bob Dylan now.’”
So, where does this drive come from to keep creating, to keep getting into the studio after all these years?
“It’s my job,” says McCutcheon. “Like anybody who’s got a job, whether you build buildings, or write songs, or write for a newspaper, you try to get better at what you do. There’s a lot of great examples out there – Dylan not being the least of them – of people who’ve been creative their whole long life. Guys and women who I hung out with when I was starting out, who were elders of my community, these were people who would just continue to do the job. It got imprinted on me as part of what you do.”
“Ghost Light” is a typically wonderful collection of new folk classics, showing McCutcheon as a craftsman, a storyteller, and an activist. Whether he’s sketching a loving character study (“She Just Dances”), musing on his faith (“Me and Jesus”), or paying tribute to Woody Guthrie (“The Machine”), McCutcheon’s songwriting is as vibrant as ever.
“I’m in the middle of doing my 40th album, right now, which is in honor of Pete Seeger’s 100th birthday,” McCutcheon says. “Pete was a mentor and a friend of mine, and he was someone who showed me, when I was a kid, that concerts can be more than just a guy showing off up on stage; they can be events that are transformative. That’s what I always want my concerts to be.”
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