Singer Songwriters Guthrie and Irion Perform at Arts Barn (Video)

Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion

Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion

The Singer Songwriter Concert Series presented by O’Hair Salon + Spa brings Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion to the Arts Barn with local musician Billy Coulter. Join Guthrie and Irion at 3 p.m. on Dec. 11 for a discussion of their music at the Kentlands Mansion and then at 7:30 p.m. for the concert at the Arts Barn.

Nearly a decade after Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion put out their first album together, the husband-and-wife pair feel like they have finally hit their stride on Wassaic Way. Produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Patrick Sansone at the Loft in Chicago, the album finds Guthrie and Irion pushing further beyond the folky sound they established on 2005’s Exploration, their first studio LP. After Irion’s solo album Ex Tempore in 2007, the live album Folksong in 2009 and the children’s collection Go Waggaloo in 2009, the pair began expanding their sonic horizons on 2011’s Bright Examples, an album that drew praise from American Songwriter magazine for its “lush, dreamy sound.”

“Guthrie and Irion: Chairman Meow Behind the Scenes” from their Wassaic Way album

“This record is a departure from a folk duo,” Irion says. “I think this is the best example we’ve been able to present that shows the many facets of what we can do. There’s loud guitars, there’s soundscapes, there’s a lushness to it, there’s a popness, an edge. But that can be difficult sometimes to bring it all together and present it.”

Wassaic Way is also the latest entry in an ongoing creative relationship between the Guthrie family and Wilco. Sarah Lee is the daughter of Arlo Guthrie, and the granddaughter of the iconic folk singer Woody Guthrie, whose unfinished songs Wilco recorded with Billy Bragg on a pair of Mermaid Avenue albums in 1998 and 2000. Wilco also invited the pair to perform at the band’s Solid Sound Festival in 2011, and the duo had toured with the Autumn Defense, Sansone’s project with Wilco bassist John Stirratt.

Although Guthrie and Irion perform as a duo, they rarely write that way. With all the time they spend together on tour, and at home raising their two daughters, writing songs is more of a solitary pursuit for each of them. Any of the songs on Wassaic Way could be a single, which speaks to the strength of the songwriting, and also to Guthrie and Irion’s underlying goal: they wanted an album that moves them one step closer to getting at the heart of who they are as writers and performers.

“Every record has been a huge learning curve, and you get pushed beyond your limits, and then your limits are way bigger,” Guthrie says. “I think we’re still at the beginning of what we can do as recording artists. I think we’re just starting to carve a path that we can walk on.”

Upcoming series performances include Bonnie Whitmore on Thursday, Jan. 23 and Slaid Cleaves on Saturday, Feb. 22.

Tickets for the workshop and concert can be purchased by calling 301.258.6394 or at the door. Admission for each concert is $30 for city of Gaithersburg residents/ $28 for non-residents. Admission for each concert and workshop combined is $48 for city of Gaithersburg residents/ $50 for non-residents. Attendees are invited to come early and enjoy the Arts Barn Patrons Lounge. Open one hour before each concert, the lounge offers bistro seating, mood-setting music and refreshments, including beer and wine.

The Singer Songwriter Series includes six concerts and workshops this year. For more information on the whole series please visit “Singer Songwriter Concert Series Returns to Arts Barn” post.

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