A.J. Croce at The Guthrie Center: Plenty of tales to tell in song


GREAT BARRINGTON -- Growing up, recalled A.J. Croce in a recent interview, the influence of his legendary father, Jim Croce, wasn't an overwhelming element.

"I have to say, my decision to be a musician was just something that came naturally," he said. "I knew I wanted to do it when I was very young. I started playing for money when I was 12."

Croce was 2 when his famous dad died in 1973 in a plane crash, so there aren't really any memories to savor.

His influences, as he admits, are "all over the map: Ray Charles, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits. Country artists like Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie."

Not coincidentally, Croce will be performing Saturday evening at the Guthrie Center. He's passed through the Berkshires several times, but this will be the first time for him at the Guthrie.

"I have a standing invitation from [Guthrie Center manager] George Laye to stop by whenever I'm in the area," said Croce. "I've wanted to play there for a while. The last time I was in the Berkshires, I played at the Colonial Theatre.

"This was just a situation where the opportunity was there," said Croce. "I've been to the Guthrie Center before. It's a great space. I think I'll enjoy it."

He is touring in support of his latest CD -- "Twelve Tales."

"In a way, it was like releasing six 45s," said Croce.

An apt metaphor. Six producers did two songs each on the disc. Croce crisscrossed the country to connect with those six to work with them.

These included a session with "Cowboy" Jack Clement (who produced Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley) and Mitchell Froom (Los Lobos, Crowded House) in Nashville; Tony Berg (Bob Dylan) in Los Angeles; Allan Toussaint (Dr. John, Paul McCartney) in New Orleans; Greg Cohen (Tom Waits) in New York City; and Kevin Killen (Peter Gabriel) in Connecticut.

"It took about a year to put together," said Croce. "Those six guys were part of a long list of producers I've wanted to work with. I was on tour, and they were all very busy, so the biggest challenge was finding time to make it work."

Every producer brought something new to the table, said Croce.

"I was thrilled with the result," he said. "It worked out better than I expected."

Croce will be playing songs from "Twelve Tales," as well as the rest of his catalog. In addition, fans might hear a number or two from his famous dad.

"It depends," he said. "Maybe one or two. I never played any of his songs for the first 20 years in my career. But I do now. I enjoy it, and I think the audience does, too."


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