Folk master McCutcheon to perform

Master guitarist and songwriter John McCutcheon will bring his tradition-steeped sound to Hood River Middle School auditorium on April 20 for a 7 p.m. show.

McCutcheon wasn't supposed to become a folksinger. He was headed for a lucrative career as a social worker in migrant labor camps. But Woody Guthrie got there first. He heard the songs of the Dust Bowl refugees, the Grapes of Wrath stories that crackled on the airwaves of early 1960s radio and knew something else was going on. While still a college student, the oldest of a large Irish Catholic family, John took up the banjo "to help keep myself sane" and went off the deep end. He heard recordings of Roscoe Holcomb and Clarence Ashley, walked out to the end of the college road, stuck out his thumb and never looked back.

He ended up roaming the Appalachians, trading a university classroom for the front porches, picket line, union halls, churches, and square dance barns of his adopted home. 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.

From this series of chance beginnings John McCutcheon has become what one Australian paper called "the most overwhelming folk performer in the English language." His mastery of American folk music and instrument complemented by "storytelling that has the richness of fine literature" (Washington Post) weave intimate, insightful and often hilarious canvasses on which McCutcheon draws his vision of Americana.

His songwriting, rich in detail and broad in scope, have created a catalog hundreds of songs covered by performers throughout the world. McCutcheon is also known for his mastery of the rare and beautiful hammer dulcimer.

Tickets are available at Waucoma Books for $12 for adults, $5 for children 12 and under; children under 5 get in free. Tickets will be $15 at the door. The show is presented by the Gorge Arts and Culture Council.

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