Pickles for patriots
Arlo Guthrie speaks and sings to the converted at Laxson
Performing for a sold-out Laxson Auditorium audience, Arlo Guthrie brought folk history to life with his signature brand of music and story-telling.
With Guthrie the two forms are inextricable: Songs slip seamlessly into vivid (sometimes surreal) tales and back again. He carries both with a voice unlike any other—warm and textured with a hint of rascal, the kind of voice your favorite cartoon character might have had. (This paper’s editor, Tom Gascoyne, describes him as sounding “more like Dylan than Dylan ever did.")
Famous also for being the son of legendary singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie, Arlo’s been touring for the last four decades, spending nearly 10 months a year on the road, and he’s clearly a favorite in these parts. He was accompanied on stage by his daughter, Sarah Lee (guitar and vocals), son Abe (keyboard) and Gordon Titcomb (keyboards).
Guthrie continues to build upon his father’s legacy, performing his famous songs and those of a range of other folk legends in addition to his own. Highlights of the show included his rendition of “St. James Infirmary” and “Patriot’s Dream"—a song he wrote in 1976 about trying to “rekindle the patriot’s dream” and one that is just as poignant today in the wake of 9/11 and the conflict in Iraq.
On the “Pickle Song” (or “Motorcycle Song"), he interspersed the wacky lyrics ("I don’t want a pickle/ Just want to ride on my motorsickle") with the real tale of a potentially deadly motorcycle accident. At the end of the song he said, “I can’t believe I actually wrote this song, or could make a living singing it. I love America!”
Guthrie brought this large and packed venue together with a sense of shared memory and intimacy. His stories offered glimpses into a colorful world that resonates regardless of whether you were there for the story or are old enough to remember the era.