Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
John McCutcheon is a true heavy hitter in the music world. He is a multi-instrumentalist, being proficient in guitar, banjo, autoharp, mountain dulcimer, fiddle, and jawharp. His career spans back to the 1970s and he has 39 albums under his belt! That’s in Neil Young territory. John’s writing is extremely intelligent and his songs are extremely well arranged. Even though folk is the predominant genre at play here, there is some genre crossing into rock and even some Americana.
Did someone say Americana? Well if that’s what your into, Big Day (Track 4) will give you a good dose of folk and Americana. The guitars are slightly fuzzy and nicely positioned with the drums, bass, organ, and piano. All the instruments are important, but on this song, the guitar is the hero. It adds such beautiful texture that complements John’s words and vocals perfectly. The song has a very pleasant Springsteen feel to it.
Folk has always been about protest songs and there are plenty of those on Ghost Light. The Machine (Track 5) is a politically charges tune that is as current as it gets. The song does a brilliant job in tying in Woody Guthrie into the current political landscape. The Machine is a reference to a sign Guthrie had on his guitar that said “This Machine Kills Fascists”. John draws some parallels between the world in the 1940s to the world today. A very clever and thought provoking song.
This isn’t your parent’s folk music. Ghost Light has a lot more than just acoustic guitars. It is overflowing with gorgeous instruments throughout the entire album. There is definitely some really nice experimentation that moves the music needle forward. This will go right into heavy rotation in my playlist. Give it a listen.