LIVE: Caffe Lena’s 52nd Anniversary Concert & Woody Guthrie Tribute @ Caffe Lena, 5/19/12
We’re all very lucky to have Caffé Lena around – especially if you are a fan of folk, bluegrass, alt-country, roots-Americana, old-time jazz or singer-songwriter music.
It is simply one of the premier folk music coffeehouses in the land. And it’s right here in our own back yard. All the greats have played there: Bob Dylan, Odetta, Tom Paxton, Don McLean, Janis Ian – and the list could go on and on.
The fact that Caffé Lena has survived successfully so long is a tribute to the business acumen and management of Sarah Craig (who has been at the helm for well over a decade), the previous Caffe managers, and of course, founder Lena Spencer herself.
Since Woody Guthrie is the undisputed “father” of the modern folk music idiom, it was fitting to honor him and Caffé Lena with a weekend-long presentation of shows featuring the likes of guitar-playing troubadour Michael Cooney (Friday, May 18) and Woody Guthrie’s granddaughter Sarah Lee Guthrie and her husband-musical partner Johnny Irion (Sunday, May 20).
However, the night to really feel the impact of the whole 52nd Anniversary of Caffé Lena and the Woody Guthrie centennial celebration was Saturday, May 19. The headliner was Texas-born singer-songwriter extraordinaire Butch Hancock, who led the pack of performers through two wonderful sets that captured the spirit of the occasion and immortalized Guthrie’s songs and life.
Emceeing the all-star affair was singing-songwriter and undeclared musicologist Michael Eck who is as sharp as a tack, quick to inform and educate an audience at the drop of a hat – without them even knowing it. Regional favorites Kate McDonnell, George Wilson, Alex Muro (of Sgt. Dunbar minus the Hobo Banned), Kim & Clyde and Rich Bala (of the Barefoot Boys) delighted a full-house audience with their songs.
Wrapping up the celebration at the end of the night, Hancock invited all the musicians to join him in a rousing version of Guthrie’s classic folk anthem “This Land is Your Land,” a song that continues to reverberate in the current social-political landscape with issues like fracking on the horizon, along with so many other things that threaten our environment, our country and eventually our lives.