Posted June 5, 2020 by Jeff in Tunes

Cabin Fever Inspired John McCutcheon

John McCutcheon
John McCutcheon

In mid-March, singer-songwriter John McCutcheon returned from an Australian tour and immediately went into self-imposed quarantine at his Georgia cabin. While sequestered there, he started having phone conversations with old friends, and he took long walks.

He also wrote songs like his life depended on it and composed a new track every day for three weeks. 

 “I was in a groove so deep you could lose a tractor in it!” he says in a press release about the resulting album, Cabin Fever: Songs from the Quarantine, his 41st album in 45 years.  

The collection opens with “Front Line,” an homage to emergency care workers, and includes “The Night That John Prine Died,” a beautiful tribute to the singer-songwriter who passed away in early April from COVID-19. 

“This is not the album I’d planned to do this year!” says McCutcheon. 

Following his last release, To Everyone In All the World: a Celebration of Pete Seeger, which he delivered in honor of the folk icon’s 100th birthday, McCutcheon had stockpiled over 30 new songs as a pool for a new album of McCutcheon originals. 

But then, the pandemic hit.

“But that pesky virus kind of put a kink in the notion of gathering a bunch of my pals and going into a windowless recording studio for days on end,” says McCutcheon. “I mean I love these folks, but…”

He returned from his mountain retreat and began recording in his home studio.  He sent the tracks to his long-time engineer and co-producer Bob Dawson, who did all the mixing and mastering at Bias Studios in Springfield, VA.  And less than two months after the first song was penned, the entire project was done.

“It’s an album that is completely of its time,” says McCutcheon. “That is, the subject matter, while not exclusively about COVID-19 and its effects, came out of that milieu. It was recorded in total isolation, mixed in isolation,;my graphic designer worked on her part after she put her kids to bed, a remarkably quick turn-around time, and, to top it all off, it’s a pay-what-you-can release.”  

Realizing many people are out of work now, McCutcheon has made the album affordable for anyone. 

“It’s a new model: even broke people need music…maybe more than most, so they can have it for free, no questions asked.  And, on the other end, we’re hoping that those folks who are a little better off might pay a little more.  That kind of generosity, too, is really of this time.”

Unable to tour because of COVID-19 restrictions, McCutcheon has been producing weekly live-streaming concerts via Facebook Live

“It’s a whole new world we’re both creating and knitting together,” he says. “But those of us in small business…and folk music is nothing if not small business!…have always had to be flexible, resilient, and creative.  I love exploring new ways to reach people.”


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].