Arlo Guthrie brings a little this ‘n’ that to Salt Lake

By John Collins, Red Pulse Writer

Arlo Guthrie doesn’t need your vote or want your money, but he does possess the sort of qualities that could make a lot of Americans wish that he were also a politician. The legendary folk singer remains as observant and conscientious today as he was during the social movement he helped launch in the ’60s. And just like in the ’60s, Guthrie is on the road again. Following a few shows in the northern part of the state, he is performing (with a band) at Kingsbury Hall on March 29.

During much of the first half of the past century, Arlo’s father, Woody Guthrie, traveled the country playing songs about the times, defining the period and later inspiring performers like Bob Dylan. This was before there was a music industry and music as a business had nothing to do with it. People were hopping from state to state, following jobs and exploring the country. Some of them brought guitars, and the spirit of the moment was captured through a kind of objective storytelling backed by smoky voices and other portable instruments. A uniquely American music forged itself in boxcars, oil fields and farmlands with songs about things such as freedom, nature and getting by. These songs were never meant to sell records or climb charts, they were8212;and still are8212;narratives, told by those with a knack for telling it like it is.

Genetically or otherwise, Guthrie has this knack. Songs such as “Alice’s Restaurant” manage to turn an anecdote about looking for a place to throw away some trash into an 18-minute illustration with severe political implications. Although this tune (and others) has met its share of popular success, hitting No. 17 on the Billboard Top 20 in 1969 and sticking around ever since, the emphasis throughout the musician’s career has adhered strictly to art8212;and not just to its musical form. In 1983, Guthrie started his own record label, Rising Son Records. It was a way to record and release whatever he created and do it without the lurking oversight of business-minded executives.

“We left the entertainment industry when it started to change,” Guthrie said. “The major labels used to be run by people who loved music and knew how to make it. Then it became about people who loved money and knew how to make that, and the music suffered. This same problem has spread across the face of the earth.”

He said, “Life is an art. Everything from science, to the art of making cars to Wall Street8212;it all requires imagination. And once any of them are controlled by money, the art suffers. Greed killed the TV industry. Wall Street used to have talented people who took care of other people’s interests8212;now those interests have collapsed.”

Even if Guthrie seems pessimistic about these aspects, he said the solution is waiting to be discovered in exactly what got the human world this far in the first place8212;artistic thinkers.

“I’m seeing more hope and optimism than I have in many years,” Guthrie said. “There’s lots of negative stuff on the political front, but the guy on the street is hopeful8212;waiting for the guys in Washington to understand. We just need to get ourselves through this as quickly and painlessly as possible.”

It has been a few years since Utah welcomed Guthrie, and he’s looking forward to making the trip. Joined by his wife, Jackie, who is originally from the state, the stop will include visiting family and some friends they’ve acquired through the years. Earlier this year, Guthrie was playing sold-out shows in Ireland and he is equally satisfied with the shows in the States.

“I’m playing with some of the best musicians that I ever have, and I haven’t had this much fun in a while,” he said.

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