Roger McGuinn - MIM Music Theater - Saturday, October 5Though he wanted to be a rock 'n' roll star -- and was for many years -- The Byrds' Roger McGuinn eventually grew weary of the effort, and decided to return to his original love, folk music. Folk Den is central to his goal of familiarizing today's acoustic guitar dreamers with the classic songs of that golden era. A series of free downloads at first, with a CD box set coming later, the project is what McGuinn calls his "labor of love."
"It dawned on me that I wasn't hearing a lot of traditional music from folk singers," he says of the project, which he kicked off in 1995. "There are people now who play acoustic instruments and call themselves folk singers, but they aren't playing folk songs -- they're playing songs they made up themselves, because Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell and people after that became singer-songwriters when the trend was to move away from traditional folk. The idea was that if you weren't writing it yourself it wasn't valid. I thought, 'What was going to happen to these great traditional songs if nobody plays them?'"
McGuinn plays them and also models his concerts after the Pete Seeger performances he attended in the 1960s, switching between a handful of instruments. "Pete Seeger had been a strong influence on me playing solo," he says. "I didn't imagine him being able to pull it off as a solo artist, but I was amazed."
McGuinn attempts the same trick, rotating between banjo and several guitars -- including his trademark Rickenbacker 12-string -- on solo cuts, traditional folk, and Byrds' classics, including "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Turn, Turn, Turn," "Feel a Whole Lot Better," and, of course, "Eight Miles High."
"It's a lot of fun, and somehow I cobble together a set," he says with a laugh. "I really prefer . . . being a troubadour now." -- Glenn BurnSilver