John McEuen Brings “Roots Music” to Knuckleheads with Matt Cartsonis

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If there’s a worthwhile storyteller musician, then John McEuen has earned the right to be called one of the best. In an evening that was as much about narrative recollections from a few of his thousands of interactions with the best in the music business, McEuen’s wit and comedic timing charmed his dedicated fans Saturday, January 13, at Knuckleheads.

Opening for McEuen for a few songs was country artist and Kansas City-based Sara Morgan with Carl Butler. A rising star in her own right, Morgan gave the audience a tasty-treat, sprinkled with narrative about her own roots in music. Singer-songwriter Morgan is signed with River Delta Records. Plain Jane, her second LP is set to release January 26.

Kansas City based Sara Morgan performed Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018 at Knuckleheads, opening for John McEuen on his Roots Music: Made in Brooklyn tour. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair

 

After Ms. Morgan, McEuen ambled out to the stage accompanied by the affable and perfectly-matched partner in musical legacy, Matt Cartsonis.

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John McEuen and Matt Cartsonis performed Saturday, January 13, 2018 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City as part of McEuen’s Roots Music: Made in Brooklyn tour.

McEuen digressed with stories about his days with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band as well as stories about his buddy comedian (and fellow banjo player) Steve Martin. Rare nuggets, such as the story of how he came to work for singer Andy Williams, were met with appreciation from a crowd who also grew up listening to and watching The Andy Williams Show. It’s quite possible that there may be only a few people with whom John McEuen hasn’t worked in his 50-plus years as a professional musician.

Still as handsome as ever as a silver-haired, neatly-bearded 72-year-old, not only is his music versatility and mastery a part of his legacy – but as much so is his comedic expressions and the flash of a still-boyish ornery smile. Just because he’s a music sage doesn’t mean he had to take growing up all that seriously.

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John McEuen, on his Roots Music: Made in Brooklyn Tour, played January 13, 2018, at Kansas City’s Knuckleheads Saloon. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

Kansas City’s own Riverrock percussionist Daniel Smith was invited to bring his washboard setup on stage to join McEuen and Cartsonis. Smith said he and McEuen have been friends for decades since they met in the 1970s. It was all about the love for music.

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John McEuen played a tune on his SmoothTalker guitar with his longtime friend, percussionist Dan Smith (of Kansas City’s band, Riverrock) on Saturday, January 13, 2018 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

McEuen’s recently released CD Roots Music: Made in Brooklyn is lushly populated with accompanying artists such that there is a long list on the front of the cover.  David Amram’s intro reads:

It is not often that  you have the opportunity to spend two twelve hour days recording and at the end of the day (which as become night time0 want to stay and do more. John McEuen’s album is an experience that all of us fortunate enough to participate in will cherish. Every musician played so beautifully – each take was a breathtaking experience.

The performances were all memorable, and we moved along so smoothly that there was not time to relish the experience until trying to remember each tune we did when we thought about it late at night after all was over. It provided us all with vitamins for the soul.

I know this recording will be an inspiration for all younger tiger-songwriteres, musicians, composers and listeners to realize that it is possible today to create work of lasting value that is always musical, soulful and enjoyable. ~ David Amram, Beacon, NY

McEuen, well-known for his banjo and fiddle playing, also brought with him a gorgeous custom Smooth Talker guitar that in and of itself is worth seeing in action. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
John McEuen bends the strings on his banjo Saturday, January 13, 2018, while playing at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

There should be no hesitation for fans to jump on the chance to see McEuen’s tour in forward cities, which span the country from California to the Midwest, to Pennsylvania to Texas and Florida. The music, the narrative and the sheer happiness that comes from spending a couple of hours with this legendary artist are not only reminders of our youth but, for young artists, a reminder that their own musical legacies hold the promise to endure.

One more thing – be sure to reserve your copy of McEuen’s upcoming book. In the final manuscript stages at the moment, McEuen’s book The Life I’ve Picked: A Banjo Player’s Nitty Gritty Journey is set to release April 1, 2018. This volume is sure to be filled with a rich history of great anecdotes and uplifting stories.

And, just for the record, we all would have picked you, too, Mr. McEuen.

 

 

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