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Music and community: Folksinger mixes both Sundays




PORT TOWNSEND – Performer, traveler, and member of the Acoustic Musicians Union John McCutcheon is set to air across the country at once.

In “Turn Your Radio On,” a 90-minute concert presented online at 5 p.m. Sunday, McCutcheon will step into the boots and instruments he has lived in since he was a student.

When asked what kind of music he plays – Americana, blues, bluegrass? – he responds immediately, categorically.

“I’m a folk singer,” he said, in the style of his mentor, Roscoe Holcomb, and Woody Guthrie.

McCutcheon’s 42 albums carry titles such as “Barefoot Boy with Boots On” (1980), “Fine Time at Our House” (1982), “Stand Up! Broadsides for Our Times “(2010) and” Trolling for Dreams “(2017).

And from 2020? “Cabin Fever”, created in the McCutcheon Mountain Hut in Georgia.

McCutcheon will perform the concert live on Sunday to benefit four community radio stations across the United States. They include KPTZ-FM 91.9, licensed in Port Townsend and heard in Jefferson and Clallam counties.

It will be a live broadcast via the Mandolin video platform, which the artist finds far superior to others. Mandolin does not compress its content, McCutcheon said, so watching a streaming performance is like seeing high-definition television for the first time.

Ticket prices vary: students $ 10, unemployed / laid off $ 5, general admission $ 20, family / household $ 30, sponsor $ 50. These can be purchased on and include on-demand viewing for 48 hours after Sunday’s 5 p.m. live broadcast.

For information, e-mail [email protected] or call 360-379-6886.

“It will come from John’s home studio. He’s got it all… it’s like having a front row seat, ”said Chris Bricker, a DJ and KPTZ producer who has known McCutcheon for a dozen years.

They met through Local 1000 of Traveling Acoustic Musicians, which is part of the union of the American Federation of Musicians.

About 50 years ago, McCutcheon was immersed in academia, “in small rooms,” he recalls, where the professor lectured on a subject “to the exclusion of all else.”

He persuaded his advisers to let him go for a three-month independent study of folk music – starting with Holcomb, a retired coal miner and farm laborer who, as a musician, had attracted the attention of the cultural historians.

“I took a sharp left turn,” said McCutcheon, “and here I am in Roscoe’s living room in Kentucky.”

He learned not only how to sing and play a song, but also how music nourishes community life.

McCutcheon went down to Holcomb’s to learn the banjo, then plunged into the world of dance, storytelling, and moonlight.

This three-month independent study, like music, lasted much longer thanks to traveling artists and community radio stations, said McCutcheon, now 68.

“’Young’ is getting old all the time,” he joked.

Stations like KPTZ, McCutcheon added, have the power to bring people together in times of trouble: a storm, a fire, a pandemic. The non-commercial outlet “reminds us that where we live is a community, not just a market,” he said.

At the start of the pandemic last year, musicians like McCutcheon lost their income entirely. They also discovered how important the act of fellowship is between the musicians and the audience, he said.

At his home in Smoke Rise, Georgia, he started doing a few online gigs a month and logged into the Mandolin streaming platform.

The artist is also working on two other albums: “Bucket List”, which will be released in September, and “Leap”, which will be released next spring.

These are sequels to “Cabin Fever”, which he put on the Internet last year as a paid download.

“Everyone needed music,” McCutcheon said.

As for Sunday’s concert, it will be about love songs, activism and the radio medium. It’s a place to find inspiration and a sense of connection, he said, and “I just thought someone should make a big deal out of it. ”


Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

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