August 6, 2013

Waterville's Bull Moose Music to celebrate expansion with Guthrie kin

Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion perform Saturday at Elm Plaza store

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE — Sarah Lee Guthrie exudes enthusiasm when she talks about songwriting and performing with her husband, Johnny Irion.

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Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion

Contributed photo

SARAH LEE GUTHRIE AND JOHNNY IRION

Where: Bull Moose Music, Elm Plaza, Waterville

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

For: Celebration of store's expansion

Admission: Free

Guthrie/Irion website: sarahleeandjohnny.com

On Tuesday, the couple released their newest album, "Wassaic Way," which will bring them to Waterville's Bull Moose Music on Saturday to perform for the celebration of the store's expansion. Their performance will be recorded for potential release on Record Store Day in April 2014, according to Bull Moose.

"I'm really excited because I'm feeling like another child has been born into the world," said Guthrie, 34, of the album's release.

Speaking Tuesday in a phone interview from the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts, Guthrie explained that the album's name comes from a train station in Wassaic, N.Y.

"It is an Indian word that means 'land that's hard to access,'" she said.

The album's title song is about traveling by train, something she and Irion, 44, do a lot as they go from their home in the Berkshires to New York City. Wassaic is the last stop on the Metro North coming out of the city's Grand Central Station. The ride provides time for reflection, reading and getting a lot of work done.

"We love trains," Guthrie said.

Guthrie, daughter of singer Arlo Guthrie and granddaughter of singer Woody Guthrie, said the album has a local feel and pays homage to the Berkshires and the feeling of community.

The couple's music includes a mix of folk, country, rock and blues. They have made five albums together, as well as some solo albums, but this is the first one they have released independently.

"It made us kind of really get creative about every part of the process," she said.

On Tuesday afternoon, in celebration of their album release day, she and Irion visited and performed at a local co-op in the Berkshires where the crowd included her school teachers, friends, parents and others.

"It was just a great mix of community and the support that a community can give you," Guthrie said.

They were headed Tuesday afternoon to a record store to perform and then in the evening, to a favorite brew pub where a drink had been named Wassaic Way, for their album.

The album was produced in Chicago by Jeff Tweedy, of Wilco, who has a long history of working with the Guthrie family.

"He kept my grandfather's legacy going," Sarah Lee Guthrie said. "This is really full-circle stuff."

Guthrie and Irion started working on "Wassaic Way" in April 2012, but wrote some of its songs earlier than that. The album is an eclectic collection of ballads and stories about people and places close to their hearts. For instance, the song, "Hurricane Window," was written about friends in New Orleans who lived through Hurricane Katrina.

Guthrie met Irion, nephew to author Thomas Steinbeck and grand-nephew to author John Steinbeck, in 1997, in Los Angeles. She moved there from western Massachusetts the same week Irion moved to L.A. from North Carolina.

"Call that fate," she said. "We met within the first week, through friends. We pretty much fell in love right away. I was intrigued by him and his songwriting ability. I was young. I was 18 and had just finished high school."

They stayed up late into the nights, singing tunes by George Jones, Tammy Wynette and the Everly Brothers.

"I fell in love with singing harmony with him," Guthrie recalled.

Two years later, they were married and began to play acoustic duos, including once in 2004, when they performed at the Unity Centre for the Performing Arts, in Unity.

They have two daughters, 5 and 10 years old. The girls joined their parents and other family members in 2009 in making the children's CD, "Go Waggaloo."

(Continued on page 2)

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