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Live at Wolf Trap

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Album Review

Let's face it: A lot of the children's music that comes from the United States is appallingly bad. It is annoying and highly sophomoric, not to mention condescending — it does kids a tremendous disservice by talking down to them. John McCutcheon feels the same way, which is why the folksinger has been providing intelligent children's music. Not everything McCutcheon does is children-oriented, but here's the thing: His children-oriented work is so intelligently done that it isn't all that different from the McCutcheon albums that aren't specifically aimed at kids. Live at Wolf Trap falls into the latter category, although a lot of parents bought it anyway because of his fine reputation in the children's market. Recorded live in Vienna, VA, in 1990 and 1991, this CD paints an attractive picture of McCutcheon as both a singer/songwriter and a performer of traditional folk repertoire. Some of the songs that he performs are in the public domain, including "The Water Is Wide" and "Stole and Sold from Africa." But plenty of McCutcheon originals are also performed, and they range from the reflective "High Hearts" to the playful "Black Sea." One of the nice things about McCutcheon is his awareness of the roots of Anglo-American folk — he realizes that the folk traditions of the U.S. have their roots in the folk traditions of the British Isles. McCutcheon has blues influences, but he also has Welsh and Celtic influences. So even though the Wisconsin native is very much a part of Anglo-American folk, he is also well aware of his European musical heritage. Live at Wolf Trap falls short of essential, but it's still an enjoyable, satisfying document of the singer/songwriter's live performances.


Born: August 14, 1952 in Wausau, WI

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Known best for his prolific work in the field of children's music, John McCutcheon has consistently produced both quality children's albums and folk albums since the early '70s. McCutcheon is first and foremost an instrumentalist. Like thousands of others in the '60s, McCutcheon, a Wisconsin native, taught himself how to play a mail-order guitar and joined the local folk scene. His interest became more serious, however, when he sought to find the roots of this music. McCutcheon headed for Appalachia...
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Live at Wolf Trap, John McCutcheon
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