American music carries with it a long tradition of roaming, guitar-toting troubadours. Woody Guthrie learned traditional folk and blues by traveling from Oklahoma to California with a group of migrant workers. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott ran away from home to join the rodeo, where he lived among singing cowboys and learned to play the acoustic. And even though John Craigie was born decades later, he still undeniably possesses that same musical spirit. Today, the 28-year-old Craigie travels from town to town, sharing both his songs and his stories. It’s a simple and honest approach, but in times like these, it seems to be exactly what people are craving.
“Folk music is universal,” offered Craigie from the side of a Louisiana highway. “Part of the art is singing to your crowd. If I’m playing to college kids, I sing songs and tell stories they can relate to. But down here in Louisiana, it’s sort of a more conservative circle of people, so I find ways to relate to them and their situations while still bringing in the universal things that we can all related to. The beauty of playing here in America is that every show is going to have a different mix of people.”
And the mix at a Craigie show is not just confined to those seated in the audience. His own musical aspirations stem from a collision of musical styles, tempers, and times. From quintessential singer/songwriters like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell to contemporary collectives like Wilco and Pearl Jam, Craigie’s inspirations are about as multifaceted as they are innumerable.
“I am pretty much a lyric snob,” Craigie explained. “When I am listening to music, it’s the lyrics that are really going to grab me first and foremost. I’m a big fan of John Prine. Guys like him, whose music is really single and whose lyrics carry the song, are who appeal to me. Sometimes I like to branch out and listen to some weirder stuff, like instrumental jazz, which is the opposite of what I’m doing. : But in the end, it’s the classic singer/songwriters, their lyrics, and how I relate to what they have to say.”
John Craigie plays The Mercury Lounge (5871 Hollister Ave., Goleta) this Saturday, April 11, with Watercolor Paintings at 9 p.m. Call 967-0907 or visit myspace.com/mercurylounge for details.