For fifty years now “Folk Music’s Rustic Renaissance Man” (Washington Post) John McCutcheon has been everywhere in the folk music scene. A breath-taking multi instrumentalist, a traditional music archivist, one of the primary revivalists of the hammer dulcimer, a pioneering children’s and family artist, a prolific and wide ranging songwriter, and the very definition of the touring Road Warrior. Until COVID.
Starting in March 2020, fresh from his twelfth Australian tour, he settled into homelife and wrote. And wrote. On September 2, 2022 he’s releasing Leap!, his third album of songs written during the pandemic. “These are not songs about the pandemic, they are songs because of the pandemic,” the multiple-Grammy-nominated McCutcheon mused.
The 18-song collection covers lots of ground. He takes you from backroad Appalachian to Belfast, from a front-porch salesman to an immigrant’s first day of work waiting outside a steel mill, from a 9-year-old at recess to a chance meeting in a New York subway. McCutcheon’s legendary storytelling illuminates moments great and small, elevating the ordinary to the extraordinary, all delivered with his warm baritone and his long-time bandmates, fleshing each tale out perfectly.
Fiddle ace Stuart Duncan is omnipresent as a lyrical and emotive element on nearly every song. Keyboardist Jon Carroll, long the centerpiece of McCutcheon’s recordings, is reliably brilliant, while bassist JT Brown adds the perfect foundational anchor. Guest artists include drummer Robert “Jos” Jospé and guitarist Pete Kennedy, longtime McCutcheon collaborators, Irish flutist Seamus Egan, and singers Kathy Mattea, Tim O’Brien, and Tommy Sands.
“The Ride” starts the trip, a usually-timid kid taking a brave leap at the local quarry, recalling his grandad telling him, “If you ain’t livin’, then you’re dyin’!” “The Troubles” sees the decades-long conflict in Ireland reflected in today’s polarized times. “Second Hand” honors the passing of Greece’s oldest Holocaust survivor, who spent her life recounting her experiences to school children.
There are lighter moments as well. “Listen” opines that “They say that love is blind, love is deaf, as well!”, while “Song When You Are Dead” is a laugh-out-loud take on a commissioned eulogy.
Leap! follows on the heels of Cabin Fever: Songs from the Quarantine (2020) and Bucket List (2021) and brings to 54 the new songs written and released since the 2020 lockdown. “And that’s less than half of what’s been composed, not counting at least that many from my weekly Zoom sessions with Tom Paxton and others!” said McCutcheon.
With this, his 43rd release in his 50-year career, John McCutcheon proves again that his is one of the most creative, prolific, reliable, and satisfying of American folk music’s stalwarts. Leap! puts a big exclamation point on his already impressive legacy.
This is a pay-what-you-will download. Knowing that there are many who’ve lost their jobs and their incomes, as well as many who are economically unphased by this current situation, please…help yourself to the music if you cannot afford to buy it, but please be generous if you can. It’s entirely up to you.
You have 2 options for downloading this album.
1) Mp3 files. These are smaller files, more quickly downloaded, and take up less space on your devices. This is what almost all downloads are from everywhere.
2) Wav files. These are larger, full-range audio files, like you would get on a CD. They'll take longer to download and will take up more space. These are rarely offered as download files.
So why are we offering both? Because John works hard to get his albums sounding great and the compression used on mp3 files erases much of the fine tuning. John hates mp3's. Most musicians do. Yeah, we know it's kinda snobbish, but ears are what a musician is paid for, huh?
If you don't want to choose, you can have both. Listen to the mp3's on your mobile devices and burn a CD with the wav files for the total listening experience. With our compliments.
Thanks for your interest, thanks for being careful, and thanks for helping us all get through this with our souls intact.
Song When You Are Dead
You Used to Be
Kora on the Subway