John McCutcheon

REVIEW: John McCutcheon “Leap!”


John McCutcheon – Leap!

I said this before, but Mr. McCutcheon is a perfect artist to follow the late Pete Seeger. The Grammy-nominated John has the personality, songs & lots of character.

John — a pioneering children’s & family artist & a traditional music archivist & continues to be a folk artist in the old-fashion highly respected genre.

John McCutcheon

This new collection isn’t about the pandemic but songs because of the pandemic.

This ambitious 68-minute, 18-song CD Leap! (Drops Sept. 2–Appalseed) covers many topics. John’s storytelling is well-seasoned, non-confrontational & basically traditional in a Tom Paxton, Ramblin Jack Elliott, Biff Rose, Burl Ives, Phil Ochs stylization.

This is his 43rd release in a 50-year career & John does touch lightly upon politics & religion through the beauty of fiddles & acoustic guitars & his rich near-Roger Whittaker vocal.

This new set was produced by John with Bob Dawson. While I was never a big fan of this kind of folk music (just a matter of taste, I prefer the Oysterband, Spirit of the West, the Kingston Trio, Gordon Lightfoot & Fairport Convention). I often found the old 60s folk-singers preachy, with music that dated poorly & was somewhat inaccurate. They didn’t research their subjects as Bob Dylan did & he ran into trouble sometimes.

However, John McCutcheon presents his music carefully, respectfully & thoughtfully & poses the questions then backs off from any radical statement (Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, Billy Bragg). Controversy is not part of his repertoire.

McCutcheon (vocals/guitar/autoharp) is an excellent artist with thoughtful fairly simple songs that at times are thought-provoking. He does cover many subjects & topics but never with a biting tongue. Many folk singers have either ignored these subjects, aren’t aware, or avoid them.

His CD comes in a handsome 6-panel package with each song well-annotated & features consistently excellent performances. Musicians – Stuart Duncan (fiddle/mandolin), Jon Carroll (piano/organ), JT Brown (bass), Pete Kennedy (electric guitar), Tim O’Brien (bouzouki/mandolin/harmony vocal), Kathy Mattea (harmony vocal), Seamus Egan (low whistles) & Tommy Sands (3rd verse on “The Troubles”).

Highlights – “Shadowland,” “Song When You Are Dead,” “Sorry Land,” “Fuller Brush,” & “Nobody Knows” are standouts.

Photo by Bob Yahn. CD @

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