A Review of the CD
"Storied Ground"
by John McCutcheon

"Storied Ground"
by John McCutcheon

Copyright 1999 - 0467
Rounder Records
One Camp Street
Cambridge, MA 02140

Appalseed Records
1025 Locust Avenue
Charlottesville, VA 22901

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 12/99
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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John McCutcheon is a man of many talents. Foremost is his ability to write songs celebrating the nobility of the working class without drifting into the quagmire of unctuousness. His latest release is replete with social commentaries blanketing a multitude of subjects, with the little guy sometimes winning but also sometimes falling prey to economic, social, racial, and class injustices. And check it out, he even lines up shoulder-to-shoulder with Nancy Reagan on one cut! John, I guess we hardly knew ye!

Brimming with percussion, bass and mandolin, "Jericho," is the opener, describing the actions people have bravely taken both individually and collectively over the years to change their lot and, ultimately, society for the better. Sometimes, though, it can be difficult to see the larger context and perspective, a la Rosa Parks' refusal to head to the back of the bus for a seat. Tired feet, intentionally or unintentionally, produced an act of revolution, and as McCutcheon puts it:

"Vultures" is a rant against the media's voyeuristic invasion of almost anyone's life for ratings and filthy lucre. McCutcheon sings: He advises: The intriguing friendship that developed between major league baseball players Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese is depicted in the touching "Cross That Line," a tale about the incredible on-field abuse Robinson received in 1947 as the first "colored" player to break that baseball barrier. Despite being raised amid the racial bigotry and segregation of Kentucky, Reese had seen enough one day in Cincinnati and yielded to common decency when he called time during a game, walked over to Robinson and put his arm around him. This stunned the crowd to silence. The chorus goes: "From Us" could easily be a companion piece to Cheryl Wheeler's anti-gun ode "If It Were Up To Me." McCutcheon blames economics and weak-willed politicians for the stranglehold of a few on government weapon and armament policies in this country. He sings: His answer is: "They get 'em from us." He continues on: The piano-backed "Closing The Bookstore Down" depicts the recent battleground in many communities as cookie cutter-like corporate chain stores devour local businesses and forever change both the sense of community and the local flavor that defines it. McCutcheon offers: "Piece By Piece" is McCutcheon's homily on the meaning and importance of the AIDS Names Quilt. Infused by soothing touches of cello, it closes with: McCutcheon is a prolific songwriter but he retains a crisp freshness with his material and there is nary a weak cut throughout the twelve songs presented here. He will move you with his stories of the commonplace that contain much more insight and meaning than the flash and neon of the Top Ten This and the Best Selling That.

In McCutcheon's world, it is personal values and actions, not inherited endowments, stock options or financial bottom lines that define worthiness. Amen.

McCutcheon, on vocals, 6 and 12-string guitar, banjo and didgeridoo, is backed by J.T. Brown on bass and harmony vocals; T.J. Johnson on mandolin; Art Wheeler on piano and organ; Robert "Jos" Jospe on drums and percussion; Pete Kennedy on electric guitar; Michael Aharon on cello; Mike Crotty on saxophone; Bruce Molsky on fiddle; Mike Munford on banjo; and Moondi Klein on harmony vocals.

Track List:

All songs written by John McCutcheon, except "Key to the City," co-written with Paul Reisler.

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