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John McCutcheon's powerful folk-music album

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John McCutcheon, Ghost Light
  • John McCutcheon, Ghost Light
John McCutcheon gained fame 40 years ago as a hammered dulcimer virtuoso, then became known for his rich tenor. In recent decades, his exceptional lyricism moved to the fore, and Ghost Light represents his definitive work. The whimsical opener “A Perfect Day” is followed by the lament “This Road,” which recalls the rural poetry of Wendell Berry. (In fact, McCutcheon later borrows a fictional character of Berry’s for the heartbreaking “Burley Coulter at the Bank.”) The session work of Pete Kennedy, Jon Carroll and J.T. Brown adds to the power of songs like “The Machine,” melding images of Charlottesville with the famous Woody Guthrie guitar graffiti, “This machine kills fascists.” Guthrie’s unpublished lyrics that close the album end up being a lesser light in an otherwise surprisingly powerful folk-music album.
File next to: Bert Jansch, David Rovics, Richard Shindell

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