McCutcheon appears alone on stage, accompanying himself with a variety of instruments including banjo, fiddle, and sometimes piano. He’s most famous, perhaps, for his mastery of the hammered dulcimer, which he uses to add an incantatory quality to traditional American tunes. The Washington Post dubbed him “Virginia’s rustic Renaissance man” for his all-around talents, his troubadour’s bag of tricks. But there’s more to his durability than multiple talents, or even than an unusually deep marriage of text and music in his songs: his shows embody an elegant and profound representation of the folk genre. The DVD concludes with a McCutcheon original called “Ode to Common Things,” inspired by a Pablo Neruda poem he found in a used bookstore in 1972 (again without knowing who the author was). The song is an apotheosis of the musical beliefs defined at the beginning and embodied over the course of the show. The DVD was recorded last spring at the Ark, to which McCutcheon returns on Sunday, April 26 (see Nightspots).
[Originally published in April, 2009.]