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5/7/2012 8:05:00 AM
Country Joe McDonald brings Woody Guthrie Tribute to Studio Live
If You Go ...
• What: Country Joe McDonald

• When: Saturday, May 19, 7 p.m.

• Where: The Backyard at Studio Live

• How Much: $20 in Advance / $25 Day of Show

• More Info: or 928-282-0549

Woodstock legend Country Joe McDonald will be perform his nationally acclaimed Woody Guthrie Centennial Tribute on Saturday, May 19, in The Backyard at Studio Live.

The gates open at 6:30 p.m. with the show starting at 7. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. This is an outdoor event, please bring a blanket or chair. Beer, wine and light concessions will be available.

Country Joe McDonald sees himself in Woody Guthrie. Guthrie was an Oklahoma cowboy. McDonald's father was an Oklahoma cowboy. They both married East Coast intellectual women.

McDonald remembers the old 78s of Dust Bowl songs from his home as a youth. He made the first-ever Guthrie tribute album at the height of his career as an electric rock musician, in 1969.

In 2001, he wrote and first produced his "Tribute to Woody Guthrie" for the Steinbeck Center, then dusted it off recently for an extended nightclub run at Berkeley's Cafe de la Paz. On Saturday, he brought it back to an appreciative crowd at the Noe Valley Ministry, one of San Francisco's great secret concert halls, where he first previewed the piece six years ago.

McDonald knows Guthrie. In a two-act, 90-minute presentation, he weaves together Guthrie's best-loved songs and some writings from Guthrie's autobiography, his novel and his Daily Worker newspaper column.

McDonald found some extraordinarily warm and witty correspondence between Guthrie and Berkeley folksinger Malvina Reynolds on the subject of chocolate chip cookies ("Cookies Talk Louder Than Words").

The piece from Guthrie's autobiography about him selling root beer during Prohibition almost sounds more like something out of Will Rogers or Mark Twain.

In a plaid shirt and bolo tie, strumming an acoustic guitar with a peace sign on it, nobody could be less affected than McDonald. He has clearly made serious study of Guthrie but presents the material with casual ease. He lays it out carefully, a deliberate cross section of material, and ties it all together, in an almost surprise ending, with a reading from his own father's autobiography.

McDonald brings the Guthrie songs to life without caricature or mimicry. Guthrie's best songs all have a revival fervor and sing-along choruses. His populist dreams and cornpone humor mirrored the conflict of '30s Americans, facing an increasingly mechanized future and the loss of traditional values.

Ironically, Guthrie's songs -- and his message -- have never gone out of style. McDonald channels this wry, compassionate man's wisdom without ever getting in the way, a refreshingly egoless performance by someone who remains as amazed by Guthrie as anyone.

"Woody could write about Okies because he was one. It is the idea of a man of the people, playing music of the people in his own way; music that the people can relate to, that says what they can't say, but what they feel. Woody did this, and it enabled others to do it. That he was a genius at doing this is almost less important than him doing it." Country Joe, as quoted in Zoe Trodd's new book American Protest Literature.

For more information please contact the Sedona Performing Arts Alliance/Studio Live at (928)282-0549.

Tickets are available online at or at the Studio Live box office located at 215 Coffeepot Drive in West Sedona.

The Sedona Performing Arts Alliance is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to advancing the Performing Arts thru Education, Live Performance and Artist Support. Studio Live is a tool for the SPAA to reach audiences and showcase their craft.

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