The Flowing Waters of Lake Jefferson

Saturday March 1, 2008 : "Mc" Last names

Folk Plus is hosted and planned by Angela Page and airs Saturdays from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm on WJFF, at 90.5 fm in Jeffersonville, N.Y. and 94.5 in Monticello N.Y. We are Hydro-Powered Public Radio and  stream online at WWW.WJFFRADIO.ORG  Come see the station at our open house the first Saturday of every month. Welcome new web listeners, especially those battling illness or who are housebound.
THANKS SO MUCH to the station management for accommodating  my health issues which allow me to continue to volunteer Saturday  mornings
and bring you the music that 'moves and sustains me.'

Today's theme was prompted by the fact taht John McCutcheon is playing next firday locally. We spoke  shortly after noon about travelling, visiting the White House, his college days, and writing with others.

If you are interested in hearing the interview at the website until Saturday March 15 it will be at on archive page for March 1 Folk Plus. Run to about 110 minutes into the show until about 135 mintues. The final few minutes is a live intro of Our Flag Was Still there which others could use at their stations.

1. Dan McKinnon- Kith and Kin
Fields of Dreams and Glory -

2. Lori  McKenna - Ruby's Shoes
Paper Wings and halo -

3. McGarrigles - Talk to Me of Mendocino
McGarrigle Hour- Hannibal/ Rykodisc

4.  Eileen McGann - Bonnie Susan Cleland
Beyond the Storm - DragonWing Music-

5. Dougie Maclean - Ready for the Storm
From the End of the Earth - Dunkeld Records

6. Carol McComb - Look at the Moon 326
Little Bit of Heaven - Hazelwood Records -

6.  Kate McDonnell - Mercy
Where the Mangoes Are - Appleseed

7. Rod MacDonald - Every Living Thing
No Commercial Traffic - RodmacDonald.ent

8.  The McKrells - Always
Cosmic hayride -

9.  Lisa McCormick - Bored
Lisa McCormick - Rising Records

10.  Loreena McKennitt - Mummers' Dance
Live in Paris and Toronto - Valley Entertainment

11.  Micheal McNevin - Secondhand Story
Secondhand Story - Mudpuccle Music
510 794 9953 give him a call

12.  Suzanne McDermott - Roswell Incident
Ephemera - Rosema Red Records

13. Mary McCaslin - Way Out West
Way out West - Philo

Interview with John McCutcheon
I asked if he was at the Folk Alliance conference in Memphis last weekend, and he was. Eliza Gilkyson's commented while there about  singers being "the eyes and ears of the street"  I asked about the feeling of people politically what do you hear, county to country, state to state?  Are we just feeling dyer only here in Sullivan County or what?

"Well, I think, right now of course with the presidential election process going on and the unusual nature of it there is a lot more attention being paid that I see, really, all over the world. People in other countries are just  facinated that we have on one side a woman and an African American locked in a battle for the nomination. It seems both quintesentially american and the most unusaly american thing. It's just never happened before, all of sudden we're going thro two big political taboos all at once.  And around the country yeah, I mean there is a dyer sense of what in the world has happening here. In terms of the economy and the war, there is a sense there is a disconnect from people in power to people in homes and work places, on main street, and in their fields.  So at same time among a large part of country, theres this sense of hope, that there are possibilities.  Obviously the changes that are coming, no matter what happens, are going to be better than where we are.

Angela: Agreed.

John: And theres a lot of people have this real sense, that there is a possibility that we can do these things and that after 16 years of polarization, there are some solutions for living in a Re-united states of America.

Angela: Yeah the polariztion is so damaging. :" I asked spoke about Folk Alliance asking about the comment  Eliza made a comment about musicians changing their own lives in order to bring about societal change....what are your personal changes and he focused on simply doing this kind of work, period.

John: The fact that we do this kind of work is the most unusual and unexpected kind of trade. It's a very old trade, but in a period of time in which people went to college to learn a trade. It was the death of liberal arts education when I went to college.

Angela: What did you focus on in college?

John: I leanred to play the banjo.

Angela: Ok!

John: (I was distracted)

Angela: It worked for Pete Seeger.

John: I went to a small college in the upper mid west.  It was small enough that they knew the studnets and had a clear-eyed idea of possibilities and weren't willing to take chances. I went there like everybody else thinking, Oh I'd  love to play music, but no, thats not realistic, I will have to be a choir director or a mucic educator of some sort, cuz you have to have a trade. I realized after a couple of years of sitting around and reading everything I could get my hands on, and going to concerts that were free to college students - I mean  every kind of concert, ragtime, beethoven - there was an expert on Beethoven, who every sunday gave a recital, cuz i didnt grow up wtih that kind of thing, this was all about drinking in life in big gulps and there was something that happened to me whenever I went to l live performances. I just decided that this sort of tranformative thing that can happen when people get in little dark rooms together and are able to able to suspend their own lives,and occupy somebody else's life in little three and four minute bites in some way also invests us deeper in our own lives. I just wanted to be a part of that. Plus I loved palying music. One day a couple of years later I found, oh my goodness, I'm making all my money involved in music somehow. I was 20 years old doing anything I could to pay bills. I was giving lessons, playing schools, playing concerts in evening when people would put up with me. I had no family, heck i was 20 years old, I was supposed to be taking chances, falling on my ass, and getting right back up. And now, 35 years later, I have no other skills. This is what I do now.

Angela: But, John, you are pretty top heavy in those skills.

John: Well Ive been lucky. I had that long period of woodsheedding, when i could take the chance of listening to peoples stories and turning them into songs. Listening to old banjo players, listening to stories of what peole had done in their lives whether it be working in coal mines, farming 200 acres of winter wheat in kansas or tying to catch enough salmon to fee dtheir family and provide the rest of the world with food.
Angela: You  do a lot of peacework with your singing....we have extremely active peace activists listening to this station.

John: Somewhere along the line people somehow lost sight of the fact that there are ways in which you build a foundational support system for communities. We learn it in our work places, and in our families, somehow when we take it out to the global world, we revert back to old models that have been disproved. I mean if war actaully solved problems we would have done away with war along ago, along with our problems. The point of war of course, is not peace, the point of war is victory. It  doesn't solve the problems it puts them under wraps, or silences them for a while. So, Im not necessarily ideological passivist, I just think that at most times it is the better way to solve our pro lems. I was born in 1952, so I was comign of age during the civil rights movement. And one of the greatest lessons we learned....

Angela: Where were you living?

John: I was living in Wisconsin, where the only black man I knew was Henry Aaron who played for the braves.

Angela: So whats the problem, right? (laughing)

John: What we all learned at that time, was if you fight the man with the man's weapon, the man is going to kill you. But if you fight the man with weapons he doesn't understand, then you have gained the upper ground. If people had gone into the streets with guns to try to win civil rights, we'd still be swimming in separate pools. But when the moral power of the argument was demonstration, make no mistake, there there was violence directed at people trying to change things, it gave us a different way of resolving issues.  But we've kinda lost our way since then. People out there remind us of the lessons learned. Those are the people where I wanna tell their stories and support their work. Its pretty easy to go into a town and be charming for a couple of hours up on stage, but the hard work of building our communities is left to people who rarely get the standing ovations.

Angela Yes! Good point.

John: So if I can tell their stories and sing songs about the work that they do and make them palatable for people who might not otherwise not be interested in hearing them, and use humor and pathos and history and making connections, then I've done my job.

Angela : "I love when you use history..." I asked about how 
Christmas in Trenches earned him a trip to the White House.
John: "I wrote this song about  25 years ago. From the very beginning I was looking for a way that children might come to know the story.  After many years trying to push the story to children's book  publishers Peachtree publishers agreed and paired me with a fabulous award-winning oil painter from Denmark named Harry Sorenson.  Together we wrote this book. I wrote it, he  illustrated it: Christmas in the Trenches. Last year I was one of 70 authors chosen to be featured at the National Book Festival which was created and hosted by Laura Bush, who in an earlier life was, a lot of people would be interested to know, was a liberal, democrat.....

Angela: Librarian (Angela is one herself)

John: ... librarian. Which makes me kinda wonder how they met. The librarian of Congess Dr. James Billington invited me to be part of this- and one of the things was breakfast at the White House, so i got to visit the house that we actually all own.

Anglea: Thats right

John: The current resident was not there, but Laura was there, as well as 69 other pretty great authors, it was really great fun to have breakfast

Angela: Has she read all 70?

John: No idea, but i did sign a copy fo the book for them thinking it was probably a story it would be good for them to know.

Angela: Who are you following in the folk world- up and coming folks...

John: "Theres a lot of amazing new people out there. Eliza of course is not new but she certainly is wonderful. Relatively speaking shes new to the folk world. But I've always loved the work of Dan Bern. Theres a wonderful woman up in Canada named Amber Swift who has some wonderful albums out there now. I cut my teeth playing old time music. When I was going to that Upper Midwestern college I played the banjo and realized soon enough that I was going to have to go elsewhere  if I wanted to ge around banjo players. So for a big chunk of my formative years I played old time banjo and fiddle- I've always loved that music, so groups like Carolina Chocolate Drops, Uncle Earl, Mammals - they are kinda from up in your area

Angela: Oh yeah

John: And the horsefilies, love the horsefilies. So... people who are firmly rooted in old time music but also admit that they grew up  listening to alot of other stuff. .. giving them all kinda of idea s of how to teat this Ive never been one to treat this - Ive never been one to treat this music like its precious, it is in fact an evolving kinda music, so its not under glass, didnt want to treat it like that. So as long as you have an understanding and respect for the tradiaiton and your able to incorportate the other influences you grew up with it seems normal and right.

Angela: So when youre driving to gigs, thats what you're listening to?

John: Some. I've got a huge collection of CDs. What have I been listening to lately.. oh theres a great collection of Hobart Smith, came out on Smithsonian... called In Sacred Trust... a bunch  of tapes that Flemming Brown made, gosh, 45 years ago now. Ive been listening a lot to Steve Earl's new album, Washington Square Serenade which i think is one of the most - won the grammy for contemporary folk this year - it's one of the most brilliant new albums I've heard in just years.

Angela: "Things that win Grammys we dont get sent to the station.. we have to beg for that"

John: Yeah thats on some major label. Its a great great album.  I live in a town that the country group Sugarland lives in. I know Christian and Jennifer and I've been listening to a bunch of their stuff, which is  new mainstream country music. and I've been listening to sacred harp stuff and all kinds of wacky stuff.

Angela : "I always like to ask people what their next  song idea is, something just crystalizing...something not rolling yet, but a seed"

John:  Almost a year ago now, I did a trip to Chile, something I always wanted to do. working with a womens health group I was introduced to by a woman who lived in Albany. actually. So I've been doing some fund raising for this particular group I went down to visit old friends in a wonderful chilean band, En Chilemane
who happened to live in exile during Pinochet dictatorship.
 And I went down there and visited Pablo Neruda's home in East  Lanegra?
hes alwasy been my favorite poet. I also fell  in with this woman (sounded like) favio eteveuh ???  who was the lead  human rights lawyer in Chile, and shes busy, beleive me.   She kinda took me on a tour of the country, a human rights tour of Chile, there are lots of places to go. So I've been writing some stuff about that.....

Angela: That sounds like a whole album .....   each case.

John: It could be, it would be a pretty somber album. But I also have been , believe it or not, I'm in the process of writing a Mass. I just finished a baseball album, which is coming out on opening day, shortly after I'm there in Walton. I grew up Catholic and love classical music. So many of the great composers, all the way down to Leonard Bernstain who of course was Jewish, wrote  masses,  using the liturgical form of the catholic church. So I've been taking some songs that sort of fit that mold and ordering them together, seeing  where the holes are and what needs to be done and having a whole new look in this kind of  twentieth century spirituality that we've all amalgumated ... and thinking how can you take that form and make it apporpirate  to people across a lot of different religously experimental and experiential lines.

Anglea: Ill  listen for that.. see if it happens.

John: It's one of those project, like learning to play the sweedish nickel harp a keyed sweedish fiddle which I've been sawing away at recently.   If it doesn't get done its not as though I've failed, but it keeps the wheels greased.

Angie: I want to compliment you on grabbing such a clever URL .. You grabbed "" how smart is that"  he explains

John: "Thank you but I have to say. There was a guy who bugged me for years abouot having a website and I was really reluctant. I had kids that grew up sort sucked into that virtual void, I thought I dont want to encourage people to do soemthing that encourages them to sit in front of their computers. That shows you how much of a neo-luddite I am. Eventually i go the idea. He showed up at a show i did in baltimore, in 1995, opened up his laptop, clicked a button and said, "I've set up your website. Here is what it looks like. ITs a great organizing tool. He used the O word. He knew he got me then. And he said, I've got  the best address, nobody has!

Anglea: When I saw that, I thought, 'how brilliant'

John: So he was the brilliant one. He snagged that for me. I've been offered hundreds of dollars for it.

Angela: Yeah no kidding. He should have gotten that from you. I thought you were gonna tell me he said "and its yours for a grand"

--To end the interview I asked him to live intro a cut, and we would go out on that.--
I didn't have a CD with a hammered dulcimer cut he wanted so he made another choice.

John: I tell you what. Lets go to Mightier Than the Sword - another project album, as I said, I've just done a baseball album.     Mightier than the Sword, is an album project of songs I co-wrote with some of my favorite authors.  People like Barbara Kingsolver, Wendell Berry, Rita Dove, Lee Smith, Carmen Agra Deedy,   Sister Helen Prejean, and some newly complete Woody Guthrie songs.

The lead cut is 'Our Flag Is Still There'. This is a song that I wrote with Barbara  Kingsolver, an old friend of mine, based on an old essay. Actually it was the  title that was the part that inspired the song.  In her book  Small Wonder  I saw the title for this essay and I thought, this is a phrase - Our Flag was Still There- that I have seen my whole life, but I've never seen it removed from it's context in the national anthem- io thought thats a great song title, then I read the essay, which was essentially decrying the fact that a very small portion of the polical landscape has laid claim
 to the symbols of our country to the point where progressives feel uncomfortable somehow with our flag. I thought that this is essentially wrong. Nobody  gets to dictate what being a patriot means. This is a country that was born of  dissent, and there is nothing treasonous about dissent in a democrcy.  So Barbara and I got together  and wrote this song.

14. John McCutcheon - OurFlag Was Still There
Mightier Than the Sword - Appalsongs

15.  Laurie McClain - I Wanna be like You
The Child Behind My Eyes - Kindred Voices Music

16. The McDades - Ma Bonne dame
Bloom -

17.  Kate MacLeod - Lark in the Morning
Trying to Get it Right -  Waterbug

18. Andre McKnight - Letter to Colonel Mosby
Turning Pages - Falling Mtn

19 Kathy McMearty - Mr Feasbale
Mr Feasable

20 Natlie MacMaster - nJig party
BluePrint - ViK

Folk News:

Utah Phillips 
have set up an e-mail account for people that want to submit pictures and the like for use on this blog and for the family archive.

From  David Hinkley in Wednesday's Daily News on Pete Seeger, talking aobut hte recent PBS special- "For all the music that fills this 90-minute production, the most fascinating part may be the window into Seeger's personal life.  He built his own log cabin in a lovely patch of upstate woodland and raised his family there, for many years without running water. A number of segments
are  introduced here with shots of Seeger, now 88, chopping wood.
He notes that he never enjoyed performing in nightclubs with his most successful group, the Weavers, because he doesn't smoke or drink. When the  Weavers
agreed to do a commercial for cigarettes, he left the group. "They said we needed the money," he says. "I said we didn't need it that badly."

Folk Plus is a SING OUT! magazine Radio Partner (

Thanks to all well wishers with my curret battle with neurotoxic poisoning and chemical sensitivities    (

Index to Folk Plus setlists. Check out Angela's interviews    /    Return to WJFF



WJFF Radio Catskill
PO Box 797
Jeffersonville, New York 12748
(845) 482-4141
Last update 01/12/2008