Tulsa World Scene: Woody Guthrie Celebrated With Energetic And Eclectic Tulsa Show Review
03.12.2012 - By Jennifer Chancellor -
Tulsa World Scene
The "This Land is Your Land: A Woody Guthrie Centennial Concert" heralded a
sold-out crowd on Saturday night at a historic music venue nearly as old as
Guthrie himself, The Brady Theater.
Oklahoma champion and author Michael Wallis opened the night with the words
of the Okemah native and late folk icon Woody Guthrie: "I hate a song that makes
you feel as though you're not any good. ... The songs that I sing are made up
for the most part by all sorts of folks just about like you."
Indeed, Guthrie's son Arlo then took the stage to a standing ovation and
rowdy cheers as he lit into a version of his father's "Talking Dust Bowl Blues."
Fans young and old, in dinner gowns and in jeans, button-down business shirts
to flannel squeezed into seats for the once-in-a-lifetime lineup of iconic
American musicians, all paying tribute to the man who inspired them.
The night featured an energetic and eclectic mix of Woody Guthrie's son Arlo
Guthrie, and John Mellencamp, Rosanne Cash, The Flaming Lips, Jackson Browne,
Hanson, Old Crow Medicine Show, Tim O'Brien, Jimmy LaFave and more.
"What a pleasure to be celebrating the birthday of Woody Guthrie right here
in Tulsa tonight," added Old Crow Medicine Show as the group sang "one for the
ladies"-- Guthrie's "Union Maid."
"You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union," the band chanted. Fans
clapped in time and hollered with happy support.
Tim O'Brien joined the act for a bouncing version of "The Sun Jumped Up,"
with harmonica and banjo and mandolin singing along behind him.
"Thank you, Woody fans," was a popular refrain from the stage throughout the
evening. "It's a great honor," was another.
Woody Guthrie's little sister, Mary Jo Guthrie Edgmon, visited in a soft pink
dress, huge smile and accepted a historical marker plaque to present to her and
brother Woody's home town and the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah.
"Gosh, this is such an honor and I'm just breathless," she said. "I bet
directly or indirectly, I know every single one of y'all in here," she said,
then mentioned her extensive school programs about woody and the annual festival
in their home town.
Arlo Guthrie returned to the stage, this time with Tulsa band of brothers
"Going Down The Road Feeling Bad" featured Arlo on guitar and Harmonica,
Isaac Hanson strumming beside him, and Zac and Taylor made it four, harmonizing
perfectly. Fans clapped in time. The brothers grinned ear-to-ear as they sang.
Jackson Browne played the tune "You Know the Night," which he wrote from a
poem written by Woody Guthrie about his mother, Marjorie. ... The third standing
Oklahoma City psychedelic rocker the Flaming Lips followed with a small
symphony of iPads and other unconventional doo-dads, belting out an
electronic-backed version of "Vigilante Man." "The thing about this song is that
Woody must have experienced it, then 20 minutes later, the song was written. It
was just him, talking about what happened."
They interpreted the song in a way that was probably impossible to even
imagine in his day, adding depth and emotion and even whimsy.
Frontman Wayne Coyne grabbed an acoustic guitar as Browne returned to join
the band for "Along in the Sun and the Rain." It was an odd pairing, perhaps,
but one with a huge crowd response, one of the most visceral of the night. Some
in the crowd laughed at the pairing when it was announced. They quickly sat rapt
at the larger-than-life story that pulsed over the theater.
They then segued into the official rock song of Oklahoma, their "Do You
Realize?," an anthem to love and happiness.
Unexpected guests included composer David Amram and Native American poet Joy
John Mellencamp won hearts with his song, a rolling-beat version of
"This Train in Bound for Glory," his voice rough-hewn and sentiment
"I Think we all know the words to this one," Mellencamp said as he
chugged into a popular favorite, "Do-Re-Mi." Next, he said, "I flat-out stole
this song from Woody," before he launched into his hit "Pink Houses" that had
fans on their feet, dancing and singing every single world in unison. ... And
another standing, screaming ovation.
Oklahoma's own Jimmy LaFave dedicated "Woody's Road," a tune by late Red Dirt
music icon Bob Childers, to "Oklahoma's most important native son." His Spartan
set included just him and an accordion player. The lyrics were stark yet
filigreed with hope. The capacity crowed swayed in their seats and tapped their
The night got bigger as Rosanne Cash joined him. She said little as she
sauntered to her mic. A solemn "Deportees" told the tale of rotting fields, and
the plight of migrant workers Juan and Roselita -- and so many nameless others
-- who died while being "chased like rustlers, like outlaws, like thieves."
The stories told Saturday night were working man odes of human beings in
human conditions, performed with with humility and respect. Fans were at times
rapt, at others filled to bursting with hoots and cheers, tears and laughter.
Musician John Leventhal joined Cash for another tale, this one of "Pretty Boy
Floyd." Cash's sweet yet potent twang filled the venue like honeysuckle at night
as she sang of the villain's last days in Oklahoma.
She followed with another song, one her father, Johnny Cash, told her was be
of 100 songs she had to know, "Motherless Children." She earned yet another
Author Wallis stepped in again to remind us all, "The word is the music and
the people are the song."
The Del McCoury band followed with their versions of "Philadelphia Lawyer"
and and the effervescent, fiddle-filled "Pastures of Plenty" and the sing-along
with Tim O'Brien, "So Long, it's Been Good to Know Yuh."
Arlo Guthrie returned again, saying merely, "What a night!" as he introduced
his family, aka backing band, and did a Leadbelly tune, "Alabama Bound."
"One thing I loved about my dad's songs is that ... If you didn't read the
paper, you could listen to his songs and still know exactly what happened."
He played the "1913 Massacre," about 73 children killed in greedy retribution
to miners by mine-owning "thugs." He followed with the touching tribute "I Hear
Your Song Again."
Mellencamp returned to perform his favorite tune with Arlo Guthrie,
"Oklahoma Hills" to stomping feet and staccato hand claps.
"Way down yonder in the Indian Nation /
Ridin' my pony on the reservation /
In those Oklahoma hills where I was born/
Now, 'way down yonder in the Indian Nation /
A cowboy's life is my occupation /
In those Oklahoma hills where I was born."
Then, the stage filled with the night's musical guest as they sang "Hard
Traveling," each line passed to another artists, round-robin style, before
sliding into Woody Guthrie's most well-known tune, "This Land is Your Land,"
with a surprise visit by Green Country's own Red Dirt Rangers and and even Woody
Guthrie's daughter Nora.
The heartfelt parting kiss goodnight was from Arlo Guthrie, singing a tune
his father wrote on his deathbed named "My Peace," very nearly like a lullaby
from the grave.