Catching Up with John McCutcheon

It took everything we had not to name this blog “McCatchin’ up with McCutcheon.” Everything! But since we are true professionals, we showed some restraint. We will not show restraint, however, when it comes to our excitement in welcoming the incredible John McCutcheon back to San Diego on Saturday March 21st for a performance at San Dieguito United Methodist Chuch in Encinitas, CA!

John has graced us with his stories and songs many times, developing a strong fan base in San Diego. We took a moment to ask him about his upcoming performance.

What might die-hard John McCutcheon fans find familiar or comforting about next week’s performance in Encinitas? What might they find different or unique about the new album you will be previewing?
One thing different is that, for 30 years, I’ve always come in January. So the weather will be a little nicer. I’m always packing a new quiver of songs and stories, everything from childhood remembrances to musings on the day’s news. This year you all will be one of the very first concerts I’ll be doing supporting a brand new album. The SDFH audiences know my debt to those who’ve come before me. I learned from some of the great musicians of Appalachian music. Without them I’d simply be another white guy with a guitar. But I was also mentored by many of the greats of contemporary American folk music, Pete Seeger, Utah Phillips, Tom Paxton, and more. Many, though thankfully not all of them, are gone now. But they learned from those before them…and I’ve been honoring those writers and musicians, as well.

Back in 2012 I released an album celebrating Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday. 2015 is the 100th anniversary of the death of Joe Hill…the “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night..” Joe Hill. He was a songwriter for the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World, at the turn of the 20th century. Mastered the art of writing parodies of popular songs to be used in labor struggles. Woody learned from him. Dylan and Seeger from Woody. I learned from all of them. And this year I’m releasing Joe Hill’s Last Will to honor this songwriting pioneer and, not incidentally, show how many of the things ordinary people and workers were dealing with a century ago are still relevant today.

So, lots of new stories and songs, a new album, but still my usual arsenal of instruments and guaranteed good time.

For those handful of San Diego folk music lovers who perhaps haven’t yet heard your music, please give them the “John McCutcheon 101” crash course…List 5 of your songs you’d suggest they check out to get a sense of your journey as a songwriter.
Someone once described my shows as a mini-folk festival: a half dozen different instruments (fiddle, banjo, guitar, hammer dulcimer, piano, autoharp), singer-songwriter, traditionalist, political commentator, storyteller, stand-up comedian, song leader, keeper of the flame. It’s hard to compare it to anything or anyone because I’ve forged a pretty unique route over the past 40+ years. Songs? All of these should be available on Youtube…

And they were! 

Christmas in the Trenches

Kindergarten Wall


Pretty Boy Floyd

Not in My Name

We hope you’ll join us in Encinitas on March 21st! Visit here for more information and tickets!

Under the Influence with Sidewinder’s Bruce Huntington

Just two days until our next San Diego Folk Heritage concert at Templar’s Hall in Poway, featuring Americana roots band Sidewinder w/ Los Angeles-based Rodger Maxwell opening. We had a chance to speak with Sidewinder’s own Bruce Huntington about his musical influences. Here’s what he had to say:

What artist or song was your greatest influence when you first started making music (and why)?
Although it is difficult to pinpoint one single songwriter, the name that pops to my mind is Bob Dylan. Nice melodies, but wonderful pictures always painted in his songs. Dylan knows how to draw in the listener with his words. I never tire of his songs.

What artist or song currently influences you (and why)?
I really like Tom Russell‘s ability to tell a story. He is perhaps my biggest influence these days. I recently wrote a song, “The First of Goliad” that is reminiscent of the Tom Russell style and full of religious concepts. Tom Russell can just about make any subject matter interesting and compelling. He is amazing! Ian Tyson, who co-composed songs with Tom Russell, is a close second. A crazy song that Tom Russell wrote that I love is “Tonight We Ride.” I don’t know where his ideas come from.

San Diego Folk Heritage invites you to witness the ways Bruce’s musical influences come through in his performance with Sidewinder this Friday in Poway!

Concert Information:
San Diego Folk Heritage Presents
Sidewinder w/ Rodger Maxwell
Friday, February 27th – 7:30pm
$18 ($15 members)
Templar’s Hall – Poway Park
Tickets online or at door

Timeless Love Songs

In preparation for our upcoming Valentine’s Day event, we asked the performers to share their all-time favorite love songs. What do you think about this list? What would you add to it?

Artist: Jeffrey Joe
Favorite Love Song: Stardust (Music, Hoagland Carmichael / Lyrics, Mitchell Parrish)

“Some songs will take us back to a place, a time and/or a person. Stardust is about a fellow singing a song at twilight in the garden about a couple that’s been apart. He reminisces about the songs they shared. Memories of the twinkling stardust of a song that will not die. The strongest tie that still binds them together is the music they shared. We don’t know whether the couple is temporary or permanent or whether she’ll be back. I like to think that she came back and they go to smell the roses. Exit singing.”

Artist: Marilyn McPhie
Song: Moonlight and Roses (composed Edwin Lemare, below Jim Reeves recording)

“When I was growing up in the 50s and 60s, my family would often take long car trips, and of course, we’d pass the time with singing.  The kids would always choose songs like “The Bear Went Over the Mountain,” but my parents would always choose love songs from their courtship days.  “Moonlight and Roses” was one of their favorites.  My parents had good voices.  My mother was a soprano and my father a bass, and they could really get into crooning the mushy love songs.  They usually ended the song with a kiss — which made all of us kids groan.”

Artist: Veronica May
Song: Love (composed by Bert Kaempfert,  lyrics by Milt Gabler, below Nat King Cole recording)

Artist: Sarah Saulter
Song: Evergreen (composed and performed by Barbra Streisand, lyrics by Paul Williams)

“It reminds me that in love, as in everything else, mediocrity is just one of many options.  It’s up to each couple to decide how it goes for them.  If we’re willing to give our attention to staying in love, and remembering why we got together in the first place, we really can make ‘each night a first, every day a beginning.'”

Artist: Lindsay White
Song: Buckets of Rain (Bob Dylan)

“This song encompasses everything I love about love and coincidentally everything I love about Bob Dylan. Love is sarcastic, silly, sexy, serious, substantial, sacrificing, simple, ‘strong and slow,’ all wrapped into one beautiful composition. Like always, Dylan says it all without saying too much. This song always makes me feel worthy of receiving love and capable of giving it.”

Join these artists and San Diego Folk Heritage on Valentine’s Day for an evening of stories and songs. For more info and tix, visit

Getting Emotional with Happy Traum

Greetings, Folk Heritage friends! We just wrapped up a lovely show last Friday with Chris Stuart and Janet Beazley in Poway, and we’re now gearing up for another performance on Friday, January 30th at Templar’s Hall with acclaimed American folk musician Happy Traum. San Diego’s own Chris Clarke will open the show. Tickets are available at the door or online.

Playing off Happy’s name, we asked him a few emotionally-driven questions about his personal and musical journey.

You were an active participant during the Greenwich Village folk days of the 50s/60s. What is one of your happiest memories from that era?
My first day, as a teen-aged novice guitarist/folksinger, finding my way to Washington Square on a sunny Sunday afternoon and finding a park filled with like-minded players from all over the city jamming on guitars, banjos, fiddles, mandolins and other acoustic instruments. They were playing bluegrass, folksongs, blues, ragtime, calypso, old-time and every other genre of “folk music” you could think of. It was the start of many trips to the Village over there next decade.

What angers you about today’s politics?
The hardened attitudes and intolerance for other’s viewpoints. Left or Right, we need to find common ground.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
My wife and I are avid table tennis players and enthusiasts.

In addition to performing, you are an accomplished writer and instructor. How do you handle the stress of multi-tasking?
It’s not stressful if you love what you’re doing and feel fulfilled and lucky to be able to do what you like. I’m challenged and invigorated by what I do, not stressed.

As the music industry limps along in the digital age, is there anything that worries you about the industry now compared to earlier years?
I’m optimistic because I see so many people still making music together “the old-fashioned way.” There may be more front porch pickers, local bands, open mics, jam sessions, song circles and other musical communication going on than ever before. Digital delivery means more access, even though it may mean less monetary income. Still, musicians are finding a way to make a living and get their music out to others.

What song gives you the most joy to perform live?
I always love to play Bob Dylan’s “Buckets of Rain.” It never comes out the same way twice.

Your friend and fellow musician Bob Dylan certainly has a way with words. What is one of the most amusing things he ever said to you?

He once told me (this was back in the late Sixties) that Perry Como was the greatest living singer. I thought it was amusing at the time, but he was very serious and meant it.

You’ve traveled extensively throughout the world. What do you love the most about visiting a new city?
First, finding where the good food is and then meeting musically like-minded people, who are seemingly everywhere. It’s through them that I discover things I need to know about a new city.

We hope you’ll join us on January 30 for Happy’s performance. As an added bonus, Happy will be teaching a guitar workshop on Sunday, February 1, also at Templar’s Hall in Poway. For more information on both events, please visit

Musicians Duet Better: SDFH Interviews Chris Stuart

San Diego Folk Heritage is excited to welcome bluegrass/folk duo Chris Stuart and Janet Beazley to Templar’s Hall in Poway, CA on Friday, January 16th. We think there is something special about the intimate yet powerful performances duos are able to deliver, so we asked Stuart to elaborate on this topic. Check it out!

You’ve performed in many different formations, band, solo, etc. What is special about a duo?
While a five-piece band has its own rewards with a big sound, Janet and I really love the duo format because it focuses on the songs and harmony vocals. Plus, it suits a more intimate venue better, which we love to play. And we travel a lot easier this way.

What is your favorite song to perform live together and why?
Probably “Shenandoah Wind” because the harmonies are fun and it always gets a good reaction from the audience. It’s a song from the point of view of a farmer going off and dying in the Civil War and his last thoughts.

What is the biggest strength your duo partner brings to your act?
I think we both are aware of our roles in each song to add to the overall effect. If Janet is singing, then I’m aware of my role as harmony singer and rhythm player – to draw the attention to her by playing underneath her voice so the audience can hear the words, but still have the overall rhythm, melody, and harmony supporting her. And she does the same when I’m singing lead or taking a break on the instrument.
Stuart Beazley
Do you cover any famous duets?
We do a couple of Louvin Brother songs and we love the Stanley Brothers and other duo acts, but we do mostly original material.

If you had to pick one of the following duets to cover together, which would you pick?: “Don’t Know Much” (Linda Rondstadt/Aaron Neville) or “Beauty and the Beast” (Celine Dion/Peabo Bryson)
If we could sing like any of those people, I’d feel more comfortable about answering that question!

Catch this amazing bluegrass/folk duo perform live on January 16th. For more information, click here.

A Holiday Interview with David Brewer of Molly’s Revenge

We can’t tell you how excited we are to be hosting acclaimed Celtic/bluegrass trio Molly’s Revenge for our Holiday event at beautiful Seaside Center for Spiritual Living in Encinitas, CA on Saturday December 13, 2014. In promotion of their new album Wintersong, Molly’s Revenge will be accompanied by vocalist Christa Burch as well as several traditional Irish dancers.

Since it is a holiday event supporting a holiday album, we thought we’d take a moment to chat with member David Brewer about a few of his favorite (and not so favorite) holiday things:

SDFH: What is the best holiday gift you’ve ever received?
When I was 24 and on my first national tour with a Irish music & dance show, much of the tour consisted of shows in snowy east-coast states, ending up me in Pennsylvania on Christmas eve. The last trans-continental flight I was booked on to make it home to my family in California in time for Christmas had broken down, and I thought I was going to miss Christmas entirely, stranded in an airport. Well, that ground crew worked tirelessly to fix the plane, and fix it they did, sacrificing their Christmas eve so that I could return home. I never met them, and I’m sure no one ever thanked them, but I never forgot their sacrifice. Though unbeknownst to them, in my eyes, that was a gift– a true Christmas gift.

SDFH: What is your all-time favorite holiday movie?
There are many great ones, but all-time favorite, definitely National Lampoons Christmas— it just sums up everything about an American family Christmas weekend, for better or worse, and has so many elements we all can relate to.

SDFH: If you could strike one holiday song from the popular songbook, what would it be?
I love everything by Paul McCartney, but this song: A Wonderful Christmastime. I just wish it would go away, and apparently I’m not alone–even according to wikkipedia it’s one of those songs you either love or hate. It’s not the sentiment of course, it’s just too repetitive.

SDFH: This tour will be accompanied by a brand new album, Wintersong – which track off the new album would you want to be stranded on the North Pole with?
Difficult to decide, since we purposely tried to make the album a well rounded collection including all of the holiday moods, but if we had to pick one, I think we’d all say the Somerset Wassail, or Jolly Wassail as we nick-name it…the very track we’ve offered as a complimentary download on our website. It has all of the hallmarks of a classic carol of the season, angelically sung by Christa Burch, and then launches into a rousing Irish dance tune at the end, featuring the energetic virtuosity of the bands instrumental playing, so much so to inspire our dancers to leap to their feet & listeners to clap their hands!

SDFH: Several dancers will be joining you on this tour, along with guest vocalist Christa Burch. How do you feel these elements will contribute to the live performance and the overall feel of the new album?
Christa’s masterful singing shines like a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, giving even familiar carols a captivating vigor, and the dancers create an exciting visual depiction of the instrumental music which memorizes & energizes onlookers to the point of hooting & hollering with joy.

Event Details:
Date: Saturday, December 13th
Time: 7:30pm
Location: Seaside Center for Spiritual Living (1613 Lake Drive ­ Encinitas, CA 92024).
Admission: All-ages. $18 for members and $22 standard. Tickets here.