By Bailey Faulkner
The Jones House will continue its star-studded indoor concert series on Saturday, May 20 with nationally-renowned folk musician John McCutcheon. McCutcheon, also highly respected as a storyteller and multi-instrumentalist, will perform at the Jones House in support of his latest album, Trolling for Dreams.
McCutcheon isn’t new to the music world. The release of Trolling for Dreams marked his 38th album to date, matching the number of studio albums released by fellow folk musician Bob Dylan.
McCutcheon hasn’t limited himself to only performing folk music, however. During his over 40-year career, the master hammered dulcimer player has also released children’s albums like Howjadoo and even helped to form traveling musicians union Local 1000 in cooperation with the American Federation of Musicians.
Now in his sixties, McCutcheon is a six-time Grammy nominee and celebrated author of children’s books. The musician’s wide-ranging interests explain why the Washington Post dubbed him “folk music’s rustic renaissance man.”
The accomplished folk artist began his career as a professional musician while attending St. John’s University in Minnesota where he was able to convince his advisors that he should take an independent study to learn more about banjo players of the Appalachians.
McCutcheon’s idea to set out for independent study was sparked when his university’s library added recordings from the Appalachians that listeners from other parts of the country probably never knew existed.
“My college library got recordings of stuff only people who have gone off the deep end would listen to,” McCutcheon chuckled as he recalled the beginnings of his lifelong passion for the area’s music.
What started off as a short independent study trip later became the force that shaped McCutcheon’s entire future.
“It was a three-month independent study that I’m still on 45 years later,” McCutcheon said. “I just fell in love with the region and its music and people.”
Since his first experiences with creating music during his early teens, McCutcheon has used songwriting as a tool to understand and reflect on all nearly every aspect of the human experience.
“Writing and playing music is just how I learned to process the world,” McCutcheon reflected. “I’m still writing in some respects as I was when I was 14 years old.”
February’s release of Trolling for Dreams clearly showcases the progress McCutcheon has made during his career of over four decades.
“You should get better at songwriting your whole life,” McCutcheon explained.
Trolling for Dreams is a clear indication that McCutcheon is a man of his word.
“When I left the studio, it felt like a special album.”
McCutcheon assembled a group of musicians that he had not worked with for around 15 years to fill out the new album. Unsurprisingly, the musicians picked up right where they left off.
“It was like putting on a nice pair of old boots,” McCutcheon said. “It was a great feeling.”
With 38 albums now under his belt, McCutcheon still has no intentions of calling it quits.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to stop questioning things and being curious. I think you get old by not doing that.”
Now older and wiser than when he first entered the folk music world, McCutcheon has set out to commemorate three of his most influential musicians: Woody Guthrie, Joe Hill and Pete Seeger.
In 2012, he released an album of Guthrie songs in celebration of what would be the legend’s 100th birthday. In 2015, McCutcheon released an album of Hill tunes on the 100th anniversary of the folk icon’s death. Always keeping himself busy, McCutcheon is now looking to 2019, which will mark 100 years since Seeger’s birth.
“It’s only natural to finish out the troika with Pete,” McCutcheon revealed. “I’m not trying to mimic them on these albums. I want to put new spins on the music and show people how contemporary it really is.”
McCutcheon’s upcoming inaugural show at the Jones House will certainly be more intimate than the auditoriums and other venues that he is accustomed to playing.
“I just asked myself, where do I want to go that is a pretty drive and a place where you play your music and don’t have to explain yourself?”
After his concert at the Jones House, McCutcheon will head to New Market, Tennessee to lead his 4th Annual Songwriting Camp at Highlander from May 21 – 25. While both the May and June 25 – 29 camps are already at capacity, an additional week of camp is currently under consideration. Click here for more information.
McCutcheon’s show at the Jones House on Saturday, May 20 will be $20 for the public. If you would like to make a reservation for the 40-seat limit show, contact Mark Freed over the phone at (828) 268-6280 or by email at [email protected].
McCutcheon will perform at 4 and 7:30 p.m. If you would like to learn more about the legendary musician, click here.