John Craigie: Humorous Storytelling, Serious Folk

John Craigie: Humorous Storytelling, Serious Folk

Singer-songwriter John Craigie just released his new album LIVE – Opening For Steinbeck, recorded on two different shows in his hometown of Portland, OR last year.

The live format truly reveals his unique live performance of combining storytelling and songs. Because of his comedic delivery and craft for storytelling, The Stranger described him as “the lovechild of John Prine and Mitch Hedberg with a vagabond troubadour edge.”

Going along with his love for both comedy and music, Craigie is presenting his favorite songs and comedy tracks. Read, listen and enjoy.

Todd Snider – Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues
Another classic example of the Talking Blues format, and one of the early influences on my comedic songwriting. You can hear a lot of my song “Talkin Leviticus Blues” here. With the timing and the sarcasm. These kinds of songs always work so much better live.

Loudon Wainwright III – Tip that Waitress
Loudon’s live stuff is always gold and this is one of my favorites. It’s the perfect blend of sweetness and silliness. You can tell the song comes from a place of experience with Loudon having met many of these waitresses playing club and bars all over the country. You can see his connection with them as serving the crowd and also his sympathy in their plight as they never receive the same credit he does.

Greg Brown – Dream On
Greg is one of the best songwriters of the past 30 years and his live albums are always a treat. This is how he opens his first live album. I love the build up in this as the laughs come scattered at first and then when he goes into the narratives later in the song the crowd is right there with him. By the time the song is over you can tell he has won the crowd and the rest of the show will flow easily from there.

Mitch Hedberg – Sesame Seeds
One of the most common comparisons I get is to comedian, Mitch Hedberg. While our sense of humor is very different our delivery is very similar. I once listened to an interview with him where he mentioned how he was shy up there and he wanted to sound cool. Borrowing from the cadence of jazz singers and beat poets. I felt a real kinship to that. Here is one of my favorite bits of his.

Bob Dylan – Who Killed Davey Moore
After Dylan went electric, the live shows became more about rock and roll and less about folk music. This album is one of my favorites cause it captures Dylan right before the electric period at the end of his run as the next Woody Guthrie. There are so many great performances on this record but this track always sticks out to me. It’s a perfect example of subtle protest where by taking one historical incident the audience can apply that to all the madness that is permeating the media at the time.

John Prine – Illegal Smile
Another one of my favorite live records. John isn’t always the most talkative, but that’s mostly cause his songs say it all. This classic from his debut album shines so well in the live version.

Dan Bern – The Fifth Beatle
Dan Bern is a master at performance and working a crowd. This song has always blown me away and with each listen I hear a new level of genius. Only from the mind of Dan Bern would something this original and insane come out.

Pete Holmes – Telemarketers
Pete Holmes is a great stand up and I love his storytelling. This is a beautiful example of taking an embarrassing story about yourself and turning it around to own it.

Joni Mitchell – Circle Game
Joni is also not known for lots of talking between songs. But in her introduction to this song she offers up a beautiful piece of wisdom, talking about the differences between being a painter and being a musician (of which she is both).

Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant Massacree
I know it’s a long one, so I saved it for the end. But it’s one of the most influential songs for musicians like me and if you haven’t ever heard it, treat yourself for the next 18 minutes to this masterpiece. You have to remember that this is the FIRST track off of the FIRST album by Arlo. Sure, he was Woody’s son, but still. It’s so inspiring to hear how the crowd goes from not knowing what’s going on to being completely sold on it by the end. It’s an annual tradition for me to revisit this song, almost like a religious pilgrimage.

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