Playing music, creating community: John McCutcheon makes annual visit to The Palms on Jan. 19

Folk singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist John McCutcheon will return to The Palms Playhouse in Winters for two shows on Sunday, Jan. 19. Very special guests Red Tail Ring – Michael Beauchamp-Cohen (left) and Laurel Premo – will open. Photo by Irene Young/Courtesy photo

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By Kate Laddish Entertainment correspondent Folk singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist John McCutcheon is celebrated for his warm voice, instrumental prowess, song selection and ability to connect with audiences. Called “the most impressive instrumentalist I’ve ever heard” by Johnny Cash, McCutcheon moves between six instruments – guitar, fiddle, banjo, piano, autoharp and hammer dulcimer – as well as vocals on stage. He’s received seven Grammy nominations, was nominated for Folk Alliance International’s 2017 Artist of the Year, and is currently nominated for Album of the Year honors with Folk Alliance’s International Folk Music Awards. McCutcheon has played at The Palms Playhouse, 13 Main St. in Winters, once or twice a year since 1982, and will return for two shows on Sunday, Jan. 19. Tickets for the 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. concerts are $26 in advance, $30 at the door, and $12 with student ID. Very special guests Red Tail Ring are also on the bill. McCutcheon wrote, “I was introduced to the music of Red Tail Ring, Laurel Premo and Michael Beauchamp-Cohen, a few years ago and immediately fell in love with them. They’ll be doing an opening set and then joining me for some fun trio work.” The Michigan-based duo’s music features banjo, fiddle, guitar and seamless vocal harmonies. McCutcheon released his 40th album, “To Everybody in All the World: A Celebration of Pete Seeger,” last year in honor of the centennial of Seeger’s birth. McCutcheon described Seeger as “the North Star of the American folk music revival,” adding that “his activism holds special meaning at this time in our nation’s history.” “I met Pete early on in my work life. He was immediately interested in me and treated me like a peer, despite the fact that he was my elder in every imaginable way.” They performed together numerous times. “And, yes, I became friends with both Pete and his amazing wife, Toshi. My friendship with them absolutely informed how I approached this project.” Listeners who imprinted on McCutcheon’s songs like “Kindergarten Wall” as kids may appreciate that McCutcheon mostly selected Seeger songs he “fell in love with as a teenager.” “I didn’t intend this to be a definitive survey of Pete’s music. I’ll leave that to the scholars. I just wanted to give a good representation of his work (kids’ songs, topical stuff, anthemic songs, songs in different languages). “These are all songs I love. That was the bottom line.” “Each of the songs have a point and fit into (Seeger’s) larger vision of creating music that moves people and creates a sense of community,” said McCutcheon. “It’s one of the great lessons he taught me and it’s how I approach my own music and choice of songs.” In a biography of Seeger, author David King Dunaway quoted McCutcheon as saying the “most striking” aspect of Seeger’s live “We Shall Overcome” album “was that here was this whole audience that surrendered to this experience.” A similar sense of concert community is a hallmark of McCutcheon’s own shows. Is that in emulation of Seeger? “Pete was a teacher to all of us,” McCutcheon replied. “He showed us that concerts can and should be more than a guy simply showing off on stage. A concert as a transformative, community-building event? Pete taught us how it could be. It’s something I do for me as much as for the audience. “I’d much rather have the listener be moved than be impressed.” With shows featuring poignant songs like McCutcheon’s “Christmas in the Trenches,” sing-along gems like Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” and haunting hammer-dulcimer instrumentals like “Leviathan,” McCutcheon’s audiences get the best of both worlds. Tickets are available at Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters, Armadillo Music in Davis, Davids’ Broken Note in Woodland, online via The Palms’ website and Eventbrite, and at the door if not sold out. For more information, visit, and]]>

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