Outlasting the Blues

Arlo Guthrie

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Outlasting the Blues Review

by Brett Hartenbach

In 1979, Arlo Guthrie was no longer just Woody's kid, having a made his own mark on folk and popular music throughout the '60s and '70s. He was also approaching the age where he would discover whether or not he would be struck with Huntington's chorea, the hereditary nerve disease that killed his father. Outlasting the Blues deals with this sense of mortality, as well as faith, family, and time gone by. Guthrie refuses to ignore his possible fate, while examining the way things are, were, and should be. Musically, John Pilla's production, which lacks the vitality of his work on the superb Amigo, doesn't do much for Guthrie's folk-rock, though the material on side one is all first-rate and certainly strong enough to stand on its own. Guthrie had recently converted to Catholicism, and his beliefs run through much of Outlasting the Blues. "Which Side," the record's hardest rocker, begins as if it were just another '60s protest song, before you realize that it has more in common with "Gotta Serve Somebody" than "Blowin' in the Wind." "Wedding Song" is a beautiful tale of marriage, while the warm domesticity of "World Away From Me" and the record's best song, "Epilogue," round out the first side. "Epilogue" is a poignant baring of the soul by a man sure of his faith, if not his future, while at the same time at ease with his past. Whereas the first five songs are among Guthrie's best, the remaining tracks, though not without their pleasures, aren't quite as consistent and nearly atrophy under Pilla's lightweight production and the MOR backing of Shenandoah. Despite its flaws, there's plenty to admire about Outlasting the Blues, which, at its best, is about as honest and mature as folk or pop songwriting gets.

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