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Highlights: Guthrie Family Continues Musical Tradition of Touring Together

  • Now 70, Arlo Guthrie protects his voice by letting his children do more of the singing when they perform together.

  • Sarah Lee Guthrie performs at Lebanon Opera House with her father, Arlo Guthrie, and brother Abe on Wednesday, April 16, 2018. (Courtesy photograph)



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, May 10, 2018

If one could hear a smile, Sarah Lee Guthrie’s all but trilled over the phone the other day, while the folk singer described a typical night with her father Arlo on their Re:Generation Tour.

“If they’re clapping too loud for me after I do one of my own songs,” the younger Guthrie said from Boston’s Logan Airport on the way back from a West Coast trip, “He’ll say, ‘Don’t encourage her.’ ”

It’s a little too late for that. The itch to travel the world telling tales through music began during the Great Depression with Sarah Lee’s grandfather Woody Guthrie, composer of This Land Is Your Land, and ran through the 1960s and 1970s with Arlo’s anti-establishment epic Alice’s Restaurant and his hit rendition of Steve Goodman’s City of New Orleans.

Now the third generation is sharing the load as well as the road, with Sarah Lee and her brother Abe Guthrie accompanying their father on an 11-city spring campaign that arrives at Lebanon Opera House on Wednesday night.

“I’ve been bringing my kids with me on the road since they were very young,” Arlo Guthrie wrote in a recent exchange of emails from Hawaii during a break from the tour. “We’d open the plush guitar cases, take the instruments out and put the kids to sleep in them, when they were young enough to fit. They grew up that way, and have since done the same things with their kids. As a family we have walked in the shadows of others for a time, and then keep going on our own.”

Until the mid-1990s, it wasn’t a sure thing that Sarah Lee, now 39 and the mother of two daughters with fellow singer-songwriter Johnny Irion, would follow in the footsteps of the previous two generations.

“As a teenager I was trying to avoid it,” she recalled. “But things kind of happen. I always make the joke: I had every intention of going to college. Then Johnny taught me a chord on the guitar, and everything sort of lined up. Everything started to make sense. Next thing I know, Mom’s calling me on the phone and saying, ‘Go out on the road.’”

And there Sarah Lee pretty much stayed, except for recording sessions and bouts of child-rearing at home in western Massachusetts. For six years she toured with Arlo and Abe, for several more with Irion, opening for Arlo’s shows until they started touring in support of Ooh Las Vegas, their first album as a duo. The couple also toured from time to time with folk icon Pete Seeger’s grandson Tao Rodriguez-Seeger.

In 2009, Sarah Lee recorded Go Waggaloo, an album of original songs mixed with some of Woody’s lyrics and aimed at families with little kids that earned a prize from The Parents Choice Foundation. And in 2010, she rejoined Arlo and Abe and more than a dozen other relations for The Guthrie Family Rides Again tour, which lasted the better part of two years and ended a month before Jackie Guthrie, Arlo’s wife of 43 years, died after a long illness.

“There were something like 16 of us on that tour,” Arlo wrote. “It was the best time we had as an entire family. But that was quite a logistical challenge. The Re:Generation tour is a lot easier.”

In a typical show, Arlo sings during one set, then lets Sarah Lee and Abe handle the vocals and the storytelling while he plays guitar and other instruments. At 70, he needs to rest a voice that wore down over the past winter, forcing the cancellation of some West Coast gigs.

“It’s so unlike him to do that,” Sarah Lee said. “It just kills him. He’s been a diligent worker for so many years. He saw that the amount of work he can do is changing. He’s pacing himself differently. With us to lean on, he can do more shows in a row.”

And his daughter treasures every one.

“My appreciation for it deepens,” Sarah Lee said. “You never know, these days. After losing my mom, I don’t take a second for granted. Playing with my dad is so meaningful to me.

“It doesn’t get old.”

Arlo, Sarah Lee and Abe Guthrie bring their Re:Generation Tour to Lebanon Opera House on Wednesday night at 7:30. For tickets ($49.50 to $69.50) and more information, visit lebanonoperahouse.org or call 603-448-0400.

Best Bets

Quechee resident Dave Clark has developed a network of musicians through his roles as a promoter and a bassist. He’s about to leave his friendly neighborhood for the Mayo Clinic, where he’s seeking treatment for cancer.

Before he goes, Clark will join a parade of performers from his wide network tonight at White River Junction’s Engine Room. The line-up includes Norwich singer-songwriter Lisa Piccirillo, roots guitarist Rob Oxford, the Gullybillies, Sweet Rose Hip Jam and JukeJoynt. The event features free food from several Hartford-area restaurants and a cash bar. Admission is free to the sendoff, which runs from 6 to 9.

Sonny Saul plays piano in a jazz concert at his shop, Pleasant Street Books, in Woodstock on Friday night, as a benefit for the scholarship program of the annual Interplay Jazz Camp for aspiring musicians. The music starts at 7, with bassist Peter Concilio and drummer Tim Gilmore joining Saul in playing some of his compositions as well as works of Earl Zindars. Admission is by donation.

To the beat of many drummers on the green in Hanover on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, Native American and Canadian First-Nation dancers will celebrate Dartmouth College’s 46th annual Pow Wow. Starting at noon each day, dancers from around North America will be competing in multiple categories of gender, age group and costume, while vendors from a variety of indigenous groups will be selling clothing, souvenirs and food on the edges of the green. Admission is free. If weather threatens at the start of the day, the dancing will take place in Leede Arena.

Historian Dudley Laufman plays the fiddle and the melodeon at Grafton Town Hall on Saturday afternoon at 1, while tracing the evolution of contra dance in New Hampshire. Admission is free.

Dartmouth College’s World Music Percussion Ensemble stages its farewell performance with director Hafiz Shabazz on Saturday morning at 11, in the Hopkins Center’s Alumni Hall. Shabazz took the reins of the group in 1984, introducing performers and audiences alike to rhythms that began in Africa and spread through the Caribbean and the Americas. Admission is free.

Speaking of sendoffs, the college’s Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble celebrates its nine seniors with a concert in Spaulding Auditorium on Saturday night at 8. The show starts with guitarist-singer Mali Obomsawin’s composition You Take Time and ends with the soon-to-be-graduates performing director Taylor Ho Bynum’s The Deep Land. For tickets ($9 to $10) and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

Vermont singer-songwriter Patti Casey leads her new roots band The Wicked Fine Players into the Engine Room in White River Junction on Saturday night at 8. To reserve tickets ($15) and learn more, visit yellowhousemedia.com.

Clients of the Zack’s Place center for special-needs residents of the Woodstock area stage their annual musical in Woodstock’s Town Hall Theatre on Wednesday night at 5:30. South Woodstock-based filmmaker Jim Sadwith directs his adaptation of Zack’s Place in the Wonderful Land of Zoz, the cast of which also will include members of the Woodstock community. While admission is free, donations are welcome. To learn more, visit zacksplacevt.org.

Looking Ahead

Great Big Sea co-founder Sean McCann will perform a solo show of Atlantic Canada-flavored Celtic music in the Hayloft at ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret next Thursday night at 7:30. To reserve tickets ($20) and learn more, visit artistreevt.org or call 802-457-3500.

Theater/Performance Art

Northern Stage wraps its production of the Michael Frayn play-within-a-play farce Noises Off at the Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction this weekend, starting with performances this afternoon at 2 and tonight at 7:30. For tickets ($15 to $59 including sales tax), visit northernstage.org or call 802-296-7000.

Shaker Bridge Theatre stages Mike Backman’s Sunset at Whitney Hall in Enfield through May 20. To reserve tickets ($16 to $35, plus $2 for each online order), visit shakerbridgetheatre.org or call 603-448-3750.

The Claremont Opera House holds auditions on Friday from 5 to 8 p.m and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the Repertory Theatre Company’s summer production, FREAK-OUT! The Zombie Musical. To learn more, visit claremontoperahouse.org.

Music

Pianist Jacqueline Schwab, who has played on the soundtracks of several documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, displays her virtuosity live at three Upper Valley venues this weekend, starting Saturday afternoon at 12:30 with a workshop on improvisation for folk, classical and jazz musicians at the Upper Valley Music Center in Lebanon. Tuition for the workshop, entitled “Finding Kinetic Motion in Music,” is $35. To register and learn more, email info@uvmusic.org or call 603-448-1642.

Schwab’s next stop is at Tracy Hall in Norwich, where she joins fiddler Emerald Roe in setting the rhythm for the contra dance that Nils Fredland will call on Saturday night. A run-through for newcomers starts at 7:45. All dancers should bring clean, soft-soled shoes, and are encouraged to bring finger food for the potluck snack break. Admission is $6 to $10.

Finally, on Sunday afternoon at 3 at the First Congregational Church of Lebanon, Schwab performs “heart songs” and dance tunes that immigrants brought to America, and that they and their descendants composed out of their experiences. The program also includes Tin Pan Alley tunes and American anthems. Admission is by a suggested donation of $15 to $20.

The Thetford Chamber Singers’ spring tour, in which they’re premiering a work by Randolph composer Kathy Wonson Eddy, resumes on Friday night at 7:30 at Woodstock’s North Universalist Chapel. Subsequent performances are scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 4:30 and Sunday night at 7:30, both at First Congregational Church on Thetford Hill. Tickets for adults cost $12 in advance and $15 at the door, while students pay $8. To learn more, visit thetfordchambersingers.org.

Guitarist Billy Rosen and his jazz quartet play music of the Roaring Twenties at Newport Opera House on Saturday night starting at 5, during the annual Sunshine Town Social, a benefit for the opera house association and the Library Arts Center. For tickets ($15 in advance, $20 at the door), visit newportoperahouse.com.

Folklorist Mark Greenberg performs and plays recordings of American labor songs at the Wilder Club and Library next Thursday afternoon at 5. Admission is free to the presentation, which is co-sponsored by the Vermont Humanities Council and the Quechee/Wilder Libraries.

Bar and Club Circuit

Ascutney-based roots musician Greg Goedewaagen pulls into Windsor Station tonight at 7. Moxley Union ventures up from Springfield, Vt., to play rock and blues on Friday night at 9:30. The Melting Nomads play a set of funky fusion on Saturday night at 9:30 and singer-songwriter Johnny O performs Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Randy Miller and Roger Kahle host their weekly session of traditional Irish music at Salt hill Pub in Hanover tonight from 6 to 9. The weekend line-up features singer-songwriter Alec Currier on Friday night at 9, and a set of rock from The Squids on Saturday night at 9.

Tirade rocks Salt hill Pub in downtown Lebanon on Friday night at 9, and Hammond organist Tom Caselli leads his B3 Brotherhood onto the stage on Saturday night at 9. Fiddler Roger Burridge and piper Anthony Santoro ramble through traditional Irish music on Tuesday night from 6 to 9.

About Gladys frontman Rich Thomas plays solo at Salt hill Pub in West Lebanon on Friday night at 9. The folk duo of Mark and Deb Bond play Saturday night at 9.

Singer-songwriter Jim Hollis plays Newport’s Salt hill Pub on Friday night at 9, and rocker Chris Powers comes calling on Saturday night at 9. Roger Kahle joins Randy Miller on Wednesday night at 6, for their weekly live session of traditional Irish music.

Pianist Sonny Saul performs jazz at the On the River Inn in Woodstock on Saturday and Wednesday nights from 6:30 to 9.

Saxophonist Michael Parker leads his Soulfix ensemble into the Farmer’s Table in Grantham on Saturday night at 7 and into Harpoon Brewery in Windsor on Wednesday afternoon at 5.

Open Mics

Woodstock’s Jim Yeager hosts open mics on the following nights over the coming week: tonight at 7 at the ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret; at Bentley’s Restaurant in Woodstock on Monday at 7:30; at the Public House in Quechee on Tuesday at 6; and on Wednesday from 8 to midnight at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners.

Ramunto’s Brick & Brew Pizza in Bridgewater hosts an open mic at 7:30 on Thursday nights. Participants get a free large cheese pizza.

String players of all ages and abilities are welcome at the weekly acoustic jam session at South Royalton’s BALE Commons on Friday night from 6:30 to 10.

Al Carruth and E.J. Tretter host the Sunapee Community CoffeeHouse’s monthly open mic on Friday night at 7, in the basement of the Methodist church in Sunapee Harbor.

Joe Stallsmith leads his weekly hootenanny of Americana, folk and bluegrass on Monday night at 6 at Salt hill Pub in Hanover.

Fiddler Jakob Breitbach leads a weekly acoustic jam session of old-timey music on Tuesday nights at 7 at The Filling Station Bar and Grill in White River Junctio n.

Tom Masterson hosts the weekly open mic at Bradford’s Colatina Exit on Tuesday nights at 8.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304. Entertainment news also can be submitted to highlights@vnews.com.

Correction

Pianist Jacqueline Schwab will lead a workshop on musical improvisation at the Upper Valley Music Center in Lebanon on Saturday afternoon at 12:30, at a fee of $35. An earlier version of this story listed an incorrect date for the session.