Combine all that with an abundant gift for showmanship and an authentic, natural stage presence, and a McCutcheon concert is always a rich, memorable event. And yet, his live performances and his music are ultimately not about impressive displays of skill, or precocious show-and-tells. On stage and off, McCutcheon and his music seem to have always been about building community. For more than thirty years, he has traveled widely, from Alaska to South America, from Australia to Russia, listening, absorbing, and then passing along what he's learned.
Whether he is bringing together some of the best hammered dulcimer players in the country to create a recording of rare beauty, or collaborating with other songwriters, such as Si Kahn or Tom Chapin, or with novelist and essayist Barbara Kingsolver, McCutcheon seems always to be looking for ways of communicating and connecting with all of us, and trying to find ways to help us all connect with each other. No wonder, then, that in "Kindergarten Wall," McCutcheon's musical treatment of Robert Fulghum's All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, the only words he shouts, rather than merely sings, are "Stick together!"
John McCutcheon returns to the Ark on Friday, April 2.
[Originally published in April, 2004.]