Mama Cass still ain't getting fat, and Roger McGuinn is no longer paying attention.
"I only hear that song in supermarkets, anyways," said McGuinn of the Mamas and the Papas' 1967 hit ("Creeque Alley") that prominently featured his name in the chorus. McGuinn, founding member of The Byrds and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, is putting the past aside when he comes to Colorado Springs on Friday, Oct. 17 to perform at the Black Rose Acoustic Society.
Trading in the instantly recognizable jangle-pop of Byrds hits like "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Turn, Turn, Turn" for a raw, chillingly emotive survey of traditional American folk music, McGuinn is changing with the times. His most recent album, the 2001 release Treasures from the Folk Den, which was nominated for Grammy in 2002, features a number of McGuinn's musical contemporaries including Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and Judy Collins, while still achieving a distinctive roots sound that crackles like an Appalachian campfire on a windy night.
Stripped bare of all superfluous instrumentation and production, the songs seem made to be played live. For McGuinn, bringing traditional folk music back to life is like rediscovering a lost heirloom -- the rediscovery is as personal as it is emotional.
"I've had a chance to play with so many of my musical heroes that I'm very lucky," said McGuinn, "but it feels great to be playing solo again." His current tour is the model of efficiency: one man and an arsenal of guitars. "I'm bringing the 12-string Rickenbacker and my acoustics, but the songs for this tour are about one voice, one guitar."
McGuinn claims that his recent forays into traditional folk music are a natural reaction against what he calls "the fear that obsolescence would overtake these songs." With melodic themes often originating hundreds of years ago in Europe, American folk songs were "distilled in the Appalachians" and quickly developed a life of their own.
"These are songs that I just can't put aside," McGuinn said, referring to the series of folk recordings that he has recorded and uploaded monthly to his Web site -- www.folkden.com -- since 1994.
After all these years, McGuinn admits he still can't resist the compulsion to play live. Luckily, the Black Rose Acoustic Society, a local organization dedicated to promoting awareness of traditional acoustic music, couldn't pass up the opportunity to host him. Set to perform at the Benet Hill Center Auditorium, an intimate setting even by folk standards, McGuinn's fabulous picking and breezy vocals promise to resonate magically.
"I'll be playing a lot of smaller venues and theaters on this tour," said McGuinn, who will be joined by opening act, singer-songwriter Buddy Mondlock, "and it allows me to be more flexible with what songs I play." But don't expect to hear any Byrds tunes. "I'm working on a new album and I want to keep creating new things," he noted, "not dwelling on what's already been done."
-- Joe Kuzma
Black Rose Acoustic Society presents Roger McGuinn with special guest Buddy Mondlock
Fri., Oct. 17
Benet Hill Center Auditorium 2577 N. Chelton Road
$25 for general public, $20 for BRAS members