Mark Twain with a Guitar

Arlo’s Coming To Town

By Ross Altman

Arlo_GuthrieMark_TwainI don’t know what the Kennedy Center is waiting for. Thirteen years into awarding the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, they have yet to land on America’s greatest living storyteller—now that Utah Phillips is gone—that would be Arlo Guthrie, who might best be described as Mark Twain with a guitar. Since crafting Alice’s Restaurant in 1967—his classic 18’34” Thanksgiving perennial antiwar satire, Arlo has kept Woody Guthrie’s flame alive and then some, by being a constant voice for the voiceless, and the inheritor and greatest practitioner of a vein of humor that traces its roots back to Mark Twain, through Will Rogers, Woody Guthrie, Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Dick Gregory and U. Utah Phillips, the Golden Voice of the Great Southwest.

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Some Words on Woody Guthrie

By Joel Rafael

Woody_GuthrieWoody Guthrie was born on July 14, 1912 in the town of Okemah, Oklahoma.

Okemah is a small town just off Interstate 40, about 70 miles east of Oklahoma City where I-40 splits off from Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway. They call it the Will Rogers Highway because Will Rogers was so famous, and as an American populist he was certainly one of Woody’s important Oklahoma influences. In fact, Will Rogers is the most famous Oklahoman in the whole country and Woody Guthrie is the most famous Oklahoman in the whole wide world.

Lots of folks know that Woody wrote This Land Is Your Land, because they learned it in elementary school, and it has long been considered an unofficial national anthem. What many people don’t know is that he wrote the original lyric as a kind of response to the song God Bless America, as he looked around and saw the suffering of America’s common people. I’ve always thought he wanted to claim this land and the country for himself and you and me. There are some more rarely heard verses to the song that talk about no trespassing signs, poor folks lined up at the relief office, and about not being stopped by anything or anyone as he walked down the “freedom” highway.

Read more: Some words on Woody Guthrie Joel Rafael



By Terry Roland

YonderWith bullet-train speed Yonder Mountain String Band comes on at so many levels with such a vast soundscape it’s hard to find metaphors that can illustrate the energy and inspiration of their latest album (2009) The Show as well as their live performances. But, okay, I’ll try. This music, with rapid fire precision and pitch perfect inspiration, comes across as though Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe had been bred with Pink Floyd and midwife'd by The Grateful Dead. One listen to the first few tracks of this firebrand recording and it becomes clear we’re operating in the rare artistically seasoned land of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper. Before you cry ‘over-the-hyperbolic-top’ let me say this comparison is without any delusion that this or any record of the last 40 years stands a chance of approaching the influential iconic status of Pepper, but if a record and band can be captured at the peak of their potential and powers in studio production, arrangement, song craft, performance and concept, Yonder Mountain String Band has demonstrated this on The Show and during concerts over the last several years.