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John McEuen. Credit Alan Messer.
© Photograph by Alan Messer
Country, Bluegrass, and Americana legend, John McEuen will release his latest album, THE NEWSMAN: A MAN OF RECORD on April 12th on Compass Records. In a groundbreaking project for McEuen, the album consists of ten spoken word tracks and one instrumental, each creating a theatrical masterpiece that no listener will forget which features John’s distinctive musical style throughout. Starting with the title track, recounting the real-life tale of a newspaper vendor who profoundly impacted the young musician in Los Angeles, and concluding with “Jules’ Theme,” inspired by Jules Verne sharing the story of his recently departed young wife in a French cemetery to a friend, the album leaves no stone unturned.
“I have been around the world playing music and collecting stories for… a long time,” McEuen acknowledges. “As a teenager, well before the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, I loved Meredith Wilson’s ‘The Music Man.’ Before I started playing, I must have recited ‘Ya Got Trouble’ 2,000 times! Later, when performing became part of the life I picked, every now and then I would do one of these ‘stories’ (often a Hank Williams talking blues) on stage, always happy about how well they went over. I did ‘The Mountain Whippoorwill’ for many years with the early Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Then, another story would come along, be learned, and ‘filed away’ for a future date. ‘The stories’ soon tired of waiting to ‘get done,’ so, I did them.”
The album features a mix of tracks from different eras and genres. From Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Civil War-era poem “Killed at the Ford” to Robert Service’s “The Cremation of Sam McGee” about a Yukon prospector, the collection spans various literary themes. Other tracks include Stephen Vincent Benét’s “The Mountain Whippoorwill,” Hank Williams Sr.’s “Fly Trouble,” and Walter Brennan’s “Old Rivers.” Thomas Monroe’s Vietnam War reflection “Nui Ba Den” contrasts with more recent compositions like John Carter Cash’s “The Guitar of Pineapple John,” Hans Olson’s “I’ll Be Glad (When They Run Out Of Gas),” and Thaddeus Bryant’s “Red Clay.”
Born in Oakland, CA in 1945, John McEuen relocated to Orange County for high school, where he began his musical journey at 16 while working in a magic shop alongside Steve Martin. Co-founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, McEuen’s departure after 50 years marked a shift towards solo endeavors and new creative paths. Notably, he orchestrated the groundbreaking Will the Circle be Unbroken album, boasting collaborations with bluegrass legends and earning multiple accolades. With over 40 albums (6 solo) that have earned four platinum and five gold recognition awards, multiple Grammy, CMA and ACM awards, IBMA Record of the Year, and performed on another 25 albums as a guest artist and a prolific career spanning nearly six decades in live entertainment including concerts, television, and production, John shows no signs of slowing down.
John’s production of Steve Martin – The Crow won the 2010 Best Bluegrass Album Grammy. The Music of the Wild West CD, produced by McEuen, was honored with the Western Heritage Award. A Grammy nomination for String Wizards II preceded the 1994 Uncle Dave Macon Award for excellence in preservation and performance of historic music. John’s popular Acoustic Traveller show is now in its 16th year on Sirius/XM’s The Bridge. McEuen produced and directed the 1990s documentary film The Dillards – A Night In the Ozarks, which captures his early mentors at their best. His recent ventures include producing albums, writing books, and exploring spoken-word projects, epitomizing his enduring passion for storytelling and music exploration.