Just call singer-songwriter Annie Guthrie "transgenre"
"I think what happens to Guthries, since Woody, is that you're born into a genre," Guthrie said during a recent telephone interview, alluding to her iconic grandfather. "I don't necessarily think of myself as a folk singer, but I am a folk singer by birth."
Like the rest of Arlo and Jackie Guthrie's children (Sarah Lee, Abe and Cathy), Annie was surrounded by prominent folk musicians during her youth.
"These are people who were actually more or less family members to us. Like Pete Seeger — I didn't know his music; I knew Pete. And I knew him like a grandfather. You know, we called him Grandpa, and when I got older, I learned his music. And I learned to appreciate his art and who he was to all these other people, but when you're 5, he's just Grandpa. And [the] same thing I think with my dad, too: He's just Dad. So, we get put in this category because that's who we are," Guthrie said.
But the 41-year-old singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist hasn't been afraid to stretch the meaning of folk or ditch labels entirely. When Guthrie plays tunes at The Barn at The Egremont Village Inn on Saturday night, her sound will evoke country rock, punk, blues and, yes, folk at different points.
"I just call myself transgenre because I don't know that you can put art into these boxes that they put us in to market," the Washington, Mass.-based musician said, referring to the music industry.
Her latest work — a single, "Feistier than Gin," that she released in December — certainly has an edge associated with punk. The Wahconah Regional High School graduate doesn't wait to establish this tone.
"I would like to write you something pretty / A song with birds and trees flowers really / That's just not in me, it's something I won't do / Here's your love song honey / And screw you, but really, it's screw you," she sings in the opening lines.
The darkness won't surprise those who have heard Guthrie before.
"I'm not known for writing happy songs," she said.
But the inspiration for authoring these lyrics might. "Feistier Than Gin" was the first song that Guthrie penned after her mother died in 2012.
"It's not necessarily a tribute to her at all, so I think that she would've loved it. It's just a mixture of feelings. I was angry my mom died, you know, and in love with somebody at the same time. And I really wanted to write this love song, and it turned out to be this kind of combination of everything I was feeling," she said, promising that she will play the song at The Barn.
While her lyrics are often punk, her voice can sound country. And then, of course, there are the traces of folk, with a patient guitar among them. Her 2016 debut album, "Dragonfly," highlights them all. She wrote the songs, and Bobby Sweet produced, selecting 10 tracks from about 100 that Guthrie had written at various times in her life. The album is classified as folk, but Guthrie isn't frustrated that her sound often lands in the category.
"Being born into the Guthrie family is an honor, and I love it, and I appreciate it. I appreciate who my grandfather [is], who my dad is and what the family means to people, so I don't want to undermine that by saying, 'Ah, it sucks to be a folk singer.' It doesn't suck to be a folk singer," said Guthrie, who toured with her father as a child and continues to work for him.
She has even found some similarities between her work and her father's.
"I had to listen to his album, 'Running Down the Road,' to make sure that the liner notes were correct for a reissue of the CD," she said, "and when I was listening to it, I started hearing things that I do."
Yet, when she's on stage, Guthrie wants her audiences to hear the full spectrum of her musical inspirations.
"If somebody were to come to my show, you would hear those influences from all these different wonderful and amazing people in my life, but they also cross genre lines," she said. "It's easier to do a live performance because I don't think you have to tell them what they're going to hear."
Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.