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John McCutcheon
Passage
Review By Steven Stone

 

  John McCutcheon is one of a small minority an unabashed folk singer. On Passage he performs fourteen newly penned original tunes that demonstrate his complete mastery of the musical idiom known as "folk music." McCutcheon's subject matter touches the usual folky bases love, social injustice, the sea, family, travelin', death, and food. But what makes this album special is how perfectly arranged and beautifully performed every song is. These emotionally comforting sonics remind me of Mary Chapin Carpenter's early albums. John Jennings, who produced most of her albums, plays guitar and piano on three cuts. Other players on Passage include Tim O'Brien on mandolin, fiddle, and 4-string banjo, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Bryn Davies on bass and a whole slew of guest vocalists. Suzy Boguss, Kathy Mattea, and Mollie O'Brien contribute both background vocals and one duet with McCutcheon. His strong, rich lilting baritone keeps up with even these vocal powerhouses.

As is required to get your full-fledged folk-singer badge, McCutcheon can fingerpick as easy as he can breathe. On the song "Friendly Competition" he keeps up with Stuart Duncan's swinging fiddle licks. McCutcheon's fingerpicked arpeggios on the opening of "Iowa" are so delicate, and so rhythmically right-on, that they seem to melt in the air. He definitely has that magic touch. So, if you're ready for some folk music, and I mean real folk music, Passage will fill the bill.

 

 

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