Article by: Kelly Milionis, Senior Contributing Writer/Interviewer/Reviewer
Photos by: Thomas Mayer
In this day and age of instant gratification, with television, motion pictures, video games and videos supplying visuals lasting but a few seconds, it is a wonder anything lasts past a blink of an eye. So to celebrate a Centennial of anything seems unheard of, but one can only imagine it would be special. Well, observing 100 years of Woody Guthrie and his songs at Ravinia Festival Sunday night in Highland Park, IL was quite remarkable…and, special. The presentation by Arlo Guthrie and the Guthrie Family Reunion tour was superb, bringing several generations of musical Guthries together on stage to perform songs of their iconic folk singer patriarch, Woody Guthrie, as well as their own music thrown in for good measure. Woody’s music inspired many musicians, including Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan too name a few. The younger Guthries may find they inspire future generations of musicians as well.
Sarah Lee Guthrie (youngest daughter of Arlo, granddaughter of Woody), husband Johnny Irion and several generations of the Guthrie clan opened the set with “Folksong” and “Hurricane Window”. Both songs provided a cute and playful atmosphere, yet showcased a highly polished and professional presence that kept a very loose set-up on stage. Cathy Guthrie (daughter of Arlo, granddaughter of Woody) was called upon to perform one of her tracks. This was one of the many highlights of the night. Cathy, part of a duo called, “Folk Uke” with Amy Nelson (daughter of Willie Nelson), sang “Shit Makes The Flowers Grow”, a funny, truly irreverent song which surprised the audience, and forced them to laugh hysterically, clap fervently in approval and sing-along loudly. Then, as if by magic, Arlo Guthrie appeared and sauntered to center stage to take the seat which was rightfully his.
A flood of emotions as to the historical nature of this evening passed over me and then words like prolific, monumental, enduring, timeless and meaningful popped into my head to explain Woody’s and Arlo’s contribution to music. I sat on the edge of my seat and eagerly awaited every beat of every song that followed; from “Oklahoma Hills”, “Seven Little Gypsies”, to the children’s songs “Ship In The Sky” and “Take Me To Show And Tell” which showcased the very youngest of the Guthrie bunch. Annie Guthrie (daughter of Arlo, granddaughter of Woody) lent her strong, beautiful voice to “Ramblin’ Round” while Arlo played harmonica. “I Hear You Sing Again”, “Hoodoo Voodoo” were next, then followed by another inappropriate tune from Cathy Guthrie called, “Quattro Momento”. “Coming Into Los Angeles”, “Birds And Ships”, “Airline To Heaven”, “City Of New Orleans”, “In Times Like These”, and “My Peace” rounded out the evening which included a well deserved standing ovation.
As Johnny Irion commented during the show, this performance marked the end of the Guthrie Family Reunion tour. For me, it was just by chance that I was in the greater Chicagoland area and available to cover this wonderful event. I feel very lucky to have been a witness to this Arlo Guthrie and the Guthrie Family Reunion tour stop celebrating Woody Guthrie’s Centennial Birthday at Ravinia Festival.
Opening act was Mary Chapin Carpenter.