Review: Arlo Guthrie and the Guthrie Family Legacy Tour
by Rick Landers.
With a magical cornucopia of well crafted songs, homespun humor and stories of the past, four generations of the Guthrie family shared their front porch last night with a packed house at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia.
Folk legend and master storyteller, Arlo Guthrie, delighted the audience with his whimsical tales peppered with humorous deadpan twists and turns – something we’ve all come to expect and delight in. The rest of the clan includes Arlo’s multi-talented son, Abe (keyboards/vocals); daughter Sarah Lee (guitar/vocals); son-in-law Johnny Irion (guitar/vocals); granddaughter Olivia (ukulele/vocals), along with extended family member Gordon Titcomb (slide guitar/f-style mandolin).
The Arlo Guthrie Family Legacy Tour is a “place” where the audience becomes a tumbleweed lifted up and bouncing along for the sheer fun of the ride. Arlo and crew delivered old time deeply rooted Woody Guthrie songs, along with Arlo’s rendition of Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans”, a beaut of a "St. James Infirmary" and his own contributions to the Guthrie legacy like “Coming into Los Angeles”, “The Motorcycle Song”, and the quirky “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” that had the crowd singing along.
Armed with an impressive grouping of Martin and Gibson guitars, including a magnificent J-200, beautifully adorned with a Vine of Life inlay, the Guthrie family displayed their musical talents with finesse and playfulness.
Still, the bread and butter of any Guthrie tune lies in the integrity and the delivery of the lyrics that are consistently thought provoking or laughter evoking.
Sarah Lee and husband Johnny rolled out a beautiful “When the Lilacs are in Bloom” that proved the Guthrie talent migrates from generation to generation. Later in the evening, they sang the duet “Exploration” and “Kindness”, the latter with some plaintiff slide guitar by Titcomb.
Near the end of the second set, adorable four-year old Olivia Guthrie walked on stage and stepped up to the plate gripping her ukulele, bringing smiles from the audience and proud grandpa Arlo saying “She always steals the show!”
Arlo talked about his father, Woody, and how the folk legend would ramble along when introducing songs, forever discovering interesting tangents to venture into and forgetting the task at hand. With that, Woody arrived in the form of a recording where he began an intro that moved from topic to topic. With great grandpa on the porch, the family gathering was complete with the Birchmere staff, the audience, and the Guthrie family – all smiles.