Church Of The Trinity, Wed 9 Mar
It’s an almost-full house at the Church and, despite the high ceilings, the venue’s air conditioning is losing the battle against the humidity. No matter, the people here only care about one thing: seeing and hearing John McCutcheon.
The genial American arrives on stage to the expected applause, looking surprisingly cool. Armed with his banjo, he introduces the show by saying “I am a folk singer…and you all are the folk”, and then leads the congregation in a singalong rendition of Woody Guthrie’s The Biggest Thing Man Has Ever Done.
McCutcheon’s songs jump from the contemporary political (Je Suis Charlie), to songs he’s written for his kids (Kindergarten Wall), to timeless folk classics (Joe Hill) and serious instrumental works (Leviathan). There’s definitely a folky touch to most of the performance, though. It’s like witnessing an updated physical embodiment of Harry Smith’s renowned Anthology Of American Folk Music. McCutcheon is as comfortable moving through his impressive range of instruments as he is when passing through his various musical styles. Throughout both sets, he demonstrates his proficiency on six and twelve string guitars, banjo, Jew’s harp, fiddle, piano, hammer dulcimer and autoharp.
McCutcheon is highly-regarded as a storyteller, and he doesn’t disappoint. His tales are told with warmth; they are full of good humour and, most likely, arrive with a great deal of polish after being recanted many times before.
McCutcheon plays two one hour sets, full of varied styles and interesting stories. The evening reaches its climax when he plays one of his most popular songs, the moving Christmas In The Trenches. This is followed by a singalong version of Pete Seeger’s Turn! Turn! Turn! which provides a just-about perfect full stop to the evening.
This has been a concert to remember, delivered with consummate aplomb by a luminary of the traditional and contemporary American folk scene.