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Humming Byrd

by Robert Philpot

Could Roger McGuinn have picked a better song than Bob Dylan's My Back Pages to open his show Friday night at McNair Studio? The chorus -- "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now" -- perfectly set a nostalgic mood, especially when the crowd started singing along. Most people in the intimate crowd probably went back nearly 40 years with McGuinn to the early days of the Byrds.

My Back Pages could have been the title of the 75-minute show, during which an unaccompanied McGuinn told the stories behind most of the songs, recalling how a banjo player visiting his high school turned him onto folk music, how he fell in thrall to artists such as Leadbelly and the Clancy Brothers.

McGuinn threw in plenty of Byrds songs, too. The only big hit missing was Eight Miles High.

What was missing was a band and harmonies; he compensated by getting a lot of music out of a seven-string acoustic Martin guitar he designed and a standard six-string and even an electric, using a pickup to get that "jingle-jangle" sound on Mr. Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn!

The harmony came courtesy of the audience, sometimes without encouragement from McGuinn, sometimes with it. ("You need David Crosby for those harmonies," someone said, referring to McGuinn's former band mate. McGuinn smiled and replied, "You can sing David Crosby's part" during the intro to Mr. Tambourine Man.) Singalongs at concerts can be annoying, but in a space as small as McNair Studio, they give the show a folksy campfire feel.

It wasn't all nostalgia. McGuinn performed several songs from his new album, Limited Edition, which is due out in early April. The album -- performed with a band -- is a mix of traditional songs, new material co-written with McGuinn's wife, Camilla, and one very touching cover of George Harrison's If I Needed Someone. But it was Echoes Live -- a virtuosic instrumental inspired, McGuinn says, by John Coltrane, Ravi Shankar and Andres Segovia -- that got the most applause Friday night.

Roger McGuinn
8 tonight, McNair Studio
301 E. Fifth St., Fort Worth
Tickets are $40. Call (817) 212-4280.

Publisher: Star-Telegram

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