Folk music singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist John McCutcheon might not be a familiar name to many, but he sure made a mark among his peers.
McCutcheon, who will perform at World Records on Friday, was called “the most impressive instrumentalist I’ve ever heard” by Johnny Cash and “one of the best musicians in the USA” by Pete Seeger.
His latest album, his 40th, “To Everyone in All the World: A Celebration of Pete Seeger,” released in 2019, sees the 67-year-old Wisconsin native pay his respects back to the folk music legend. McCutcheon’s zydeco-infused version of “If I Had a Hammer,” is a lively treat.
Throughout his career, McCutcheon has maintained an interesting, varied trajectory.
He’s released traditional, dulcimer-heavy folk releases, like his lovely, ethereal 1977 release “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” as well as fiery country- and blues-tinged numbers, including those calling for social activism and awareness.
He’s also released a slate of Grammy-nominated children's and Christmas albums, including the touching “Christmas in the Trenches” off 1984’s “Winter Solstice” album, which showcases McCutcheon’s strong penchant for storytelling. In this case, singing the tale of the one-day Christmas truce in 1914 between the British and German forces on the Western Front during World War I. He can balance poignancy and mettle with elegance and pluck with an abundance of stylistic authenticism, genuine heart and sheer musical skill.
Red Tail Ring, out of Michigan, will open the show.
John McCutcheon, with Red Tail Ring, doors open at 6 p.m., show 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, World Records, 2815 F St. $40-$45. shopworldrecords.com or 325-1982.
‘BONES OF BRUNDAGE’ NOW ON AMAZON PRIME
“Bones of Brundage,” the 2018 documentary about the rise of Bakersfield's underground music scene, is now streaming on Amazon Prime.
Directed by former music promoter Nate Berg, the movie is told through first-person accounts (disclosure: I’m in the movie as well) of the raw, halcyon days of Bam Bam’s in the 1980s and 1990s and the heyday of Jerry’s Pizza in the late 1990s and early aughts that Berg oversaw.
During that time, the downtown pizzeria was a must-stop hub for national punk, post hardcore and alternative rock touring acts — such as Paramore and Panic! At the Disco — before they broke into the mainstream. Heck, even Weezer played there.
It’s wonderful to see the familiar faces in the film of our local music contingent’s architects — Ty Elam, Marc DeLeon and Moe Adame — as well as more famous local exports like Jonathan Davis and Ryan Shuck.
Its biggest revelation however, is the fascinating story of Rory Todd Thompson, frontman of Big Jed and the Flat Beds and later The Mutilators, who appeared to be equal parts madman, provocateur and genius. Thompson died in December 2016 at age 53.
Drama Dolls, Lolly Gaggers, Michele Lane, Princess Darkness, 9 p.m. Saturday at The Well, 7401 White Lane, No. 7. $5 after 9:30 p.m.
L.A.’s punk rock goddesses Drama Dolls (featuring Egg from the bands Sapphic Musk and Peg Leg Love) will be at The Well this Saturday in support of the band's outstanding new EP, “Five,” which is a catchy, fun and fantastic jolt of raw power. I mean, these three even perform a song about "Horchata." What else can I say? They're rad.
Also on the bill will be the self-described Bay Area queer quintet, post-punk garage rockers Lolly Gaggers. It's a promising new band that, per Facebook, succinctly describes itself as, "Think Flipper swapping spit with 45 Grave."
Michele Lane, also from L.A., will perform an acoustic punk rock set, and local Darkside DJ Princess Darkness will spin music throughout. According to show promoter Pat Spurlock: “You will surely dance. Bring a helmet.”
IT’S ABOUT FAMILY FOR WILLIE NELSON
Willie Nelson’s band may be affectionately known as the Family, based on the iconic singer-songwriter’s genuine suggestion of care and love for his bandmates (not to mention, having his actual sister, Bobbie, on electric piano) but the performance at Mechanics Bank Theater on Jan. 4 leaned more on the Family’s literal meaning. Other members of Nelson’s actual family joined him on stage, including sons Micah and Lukas Nelson flanking their father on guitars, along with bandmates that have been touring with the 86-year-old Nelson since the early 1970s.
That mileage made it possible for the band to perform with a disciplined stage volume, leaving the majority of the sonic real estate to be taken up by Nelson and his nylon-stringed guitar, Trigger. The Family’s longtime harmonica player, Mickey Rafael, had a really cool way of making his harmonica sound like an accordion when needed.
There was very little banter between songs, save for Nelson introducing the Family. He performed for his allotted hour, threw some bandanas into the crowd and let the Family close the show out. It was a no-fuss, unpretentious, friendly affair — much like the man himself. Highlights were “Always on My Mind,” “Good Hearted Women” and the witty, tongue-in-cheek “It’s Hard to Be Humble,” off his latest album, “Ride Me Back Home.”
Lukas Nelson sang lead on the blues standard “Stormy Monday,” which saw father and son trading slinky guitar solos.
Nelson’s warm, reedy voice was strong (both his and Lukas' were, actually) and he was unafraid to perilously change up his phrasing — on either vocals or guitar — when he saw fit. The diverse audience was more than game to sing along and there was a prevalent sense of joy from the people leaving the theater. Why not? What else could we expect from our perennially cool outlaw uncle Willie? The Red Headed Stranger with a knack for relatability, familiarity, humor and longevity. Based on the audience's response to him and the moment a giant flag of the state of Texas unfurled behind him in his opening number, it was obvious: This is Willie Nelson’s red bandana world — we’re all just living in it.