Things to do — St. Thomas
Arts Alive will present the husband-and-wife duo, composer-musicians Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion, at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 21, at Tillett Gardens on St. Thomas. Tickets are $30 each. Their music, which has been described as “authentic,” ”timeless,” “harmonious” and “exhilarating,” is known for both its musical richness and psychological depth, neither of which is surprising in light of each of their musical roots.
Granddaughter of Woody Guthrie and daughter of Arlo Guthrie, Sarah Lee Guthrie made her singing debut at the age of two as part of a children’s chorus that appeared on her father’s 1981 album “Power of Love.” And though she grew up immersed in music, it was not until after she graduated from high school in 1997 that she took on her first professional role with music as tour-manager for her father, who was emceeing the Further Festival, which featured members of the Grateful Dead along with The Black Crowes. After hitting it off with Chris Robinson and the rest of The Black Crowes, Guthrie decided to head to Los Angeles where she would began her own musical journey.
It would also be in L.A. where Guthrie would meet future husband and musical partner, Johnny Irion, a South Carolina native and rocker who, like Guthrie, met Chris Robinson while on tour with The Black Crowes. Irion came out of the vibrant Carolina indie rock scene of the early ‘90s where he was a member of the group Queen Sarah Saturday, and then later, Dillion Fence, who had opened for The Black Crowes in 1996 while on tour in Europe. After the tour ended, Robinson convinced Irion to move to L.A. and join a band he was producing called Freight Train. Here, in the fall of ’97, and on the heels of Guthrie, Irion relocated to L.A., meeting Guthrie in a nightclub. Within a week the two were dating.
Guthrie and Irion’s romantic relationship would evolve into a musical one as well. Irion would make melodies to accompany Guthrie’s Dylan-influenced poetry, and she would sing. One night in his Santa Monica apartment, he taught her some basic chords on his acoustic guitar. As she began to pick it up, he played alongside her, and it was then that she decided that music was her true calling.
Though Guthrie had just applied for college, her mother, upon hearing of her daughter’s musical epiphany, encouraged her to forget about school and join her father on tour. She did, though when she came home from touring it was always to Irion in L.A. A year and a half later, he proposed, and the two were married in 1999.
Soon after they traded the hustle and bustle of L.A. for Irion’s birthplace of Columbia, S.C., and then simultaneously released solo albums on Arlo Guthrie’s Rising Son label. They began touring together in 2001, playing some 180 shows each year. Irion and Guthrie started work on their first album together in 2003 and enlisted Gary Louris of The Jayhawks as their producer, along with Ed Ackerson. That album, “Exploration” was released in 2005.
Guthrie and Irion’s follow up, “Bright Examples,” released last year, is a country-rock and psychedelic collection of original 12 songs, chosen from the more than 50 songs the couple wrote in the years between their first and second release.
For more information about the concert, or to reserve tickets, contact Arts Alive at 776-8566.