Arlo Guthrie: Alone again, unnaturally


I hadn’t done it for so long, that it just seemed overdue.

Thats how legendary folk artist Arlo Guthrie can best surmise the creation of his latest musical journey, which hes dubbed as his Solo Reunion Tour Together At Last (which he brings to the Birchmere over two nights Nov. 7 and 8). 

Except for a brief tour that lasted only a few weeks back in 1993, this year marks the singers first extensive solo string of shows since 1969, a momentous time of many profound events for Guthrie on both a professional (appearing at the Woodstock Music Festival, starring in the motion picture Alices Restaurant) and personal (marrying his wife, the then Miss Jackie Hyde) level.

 Ive spent my life on the road, and I thought that Id love to have a chance to do it like I did with nothing but a couple of guitars and a harmonica, said Guthrie during a recent interview while preparing for the next leg of his trek. There’s nothing quite like having to do it all yourself on the stage. It makes you work a little harder but, it also allows you the freedom to do anything you can remember Sometimes you just want to do things by yourself.

This solo tour may seem an odd choice for such an old pro like Guthrie, changing the way hes done his job for the last thirty years. Yet, for those who know him, abnormality to this freshly minted sixty-year-old is the norm. How else could you explain Guthries latest CD release, In Times Like These, a dynamic mix of classical and pop in which Arlo collaborated with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra?

 I had been thinking about doing a project of this kind for decades, said Guthrie.  I picked music I thought would lend itself to orchestration. The finished result was more than satisfying; it was exhilarating.

Like father, like son, like grandson
While some may consider Arlo Guthrie a mainstream lightweight with his only Top 40 hit being 1972s The City of New Orleans, there may not be a more prestigious name in the annals of American music then Guthrie. The fifth of seven children of acclaimed singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie, Arlo naturally connected to his musical heritage, falling in love with his first guitar, a present from his father on his sixth birthday. Its an artistic passion hes passed on to his three professional musician children, Abe, Sara Lee, and Cathy, who in turn will one day probably pass that love on to the Guthries seven grandchildren (all of whom are featured in this Novembers issue of Vanity Fair under the title of the First Family of Folk).

It wasn’t important or unimportant, explained Guthrie in terms of passing on his legacy on to his children. It’s just the way it happened. I never planned on being a performer. I went to college to be a forest ranger. It just didn’t work out for me. I’m just making the best of it. Of course, I was always playing music anyway. I just hadn’t planned on doing it for a living for almost 50 years, and I’m getting too old to do something else.