Ever wonder why some people, including folk singers, poke fun at folk music? Probably because folk singers, as a whole, take themselves and their message far too seriously.
But not Arlo Guthrie. Guthrie is a folk singer who defies stereotypes, a man who uses a just-slightly warped insight to lace his message with humor and warmth.We're not talking here about tree-hugging, granola-munching, leftist coffee-shop folk music. We're talking plain old-fashioned common sense and wit, with maybe an acoustic guitar or piano thrown in to keep purists happy.
It's vintage Arlo, and nobody does it better. Whether he's talking about freight trains or Dan Quayle, Arlo Guthrie gives you maybe an hour of tunes and another hour of delightful commentary and colorful stories.
Like how people today are "getting stupider faster" or how President Richard Nixon was a "man ahead of his time" because of his prolific use of tape recorders. It was the parts where the recorder didn't work that got him into trouble.
And there's Arlo's complicated retelling of how when Jimmy Carter moved into the White House, Skip Carter found a copy of Arlo's anti-war classic "Alice's Restaurant" tucked away in the Nixon library. And seeing how there was an 18-minute-20-second blank spot on one of the Watergate tapes that got Nixon into trouble, it only stands to reason that . . . well, you get the picture.
Whether it's Arlo's masterful talent to weave yarns or the conviction of his music, Arlo is indeed an American treasure.
While Arlo is a bona fide legend in his own right, you could have labeled Saturday's night performance at Kingsbury Hall the "Tribute Tour," as Arlo paid tribute to everybody and anybody who was an influence to his music and life: his producer, Woodstock, the 1960s, et al.
But the most heartfelt tribute was to his legendary father Woody Guthrie, a man who epitomized the concept of a populist folk singer. Woody sang about the poor and homeless, about the outlawed and the government that made them criminals, about the common man and about the common man's dreams.
Arlo's style may be a cut or two on the lighter side (how else do you explain lyrics like, "I don't want a pickle, I just want to ride my motorcycle"?). But, like his father, he's a populist singer with an uncanny knack for appealing to folks of all ages, musical tastes and ideologies.
Not that Arlo is apolitical. Far from it. But Arlo is not so much Republican or Democrat or whatever. He's a common-sense man who likes to set his commentary to a tune or two.
And few, if any, do it better.