"He has an uncanny ability to breathe new life into the familiar. His storytelling has the richness of fine literature." Washington Post Ghost Light, the surprising 39th album by American folk music stalwart John McCutcheon, is a library of storytelling. An old farmer faces the future in a bank, a town celebrates a local hero, a road changes a community, a young man doesn't come home, a baby dances?no scene is too small, no idea too big for a writer like John McCutcheon. Ghost Dance is surprising because he had no intention of releasing a new album this year. "Over Memorial Day weekend this year a single line pestered me, 'Billy didn't come home last night.' I thought, 'OK, so who is Billy? Where is home? What happened to him? Where is he?' Then it was off to the races. Twenty-five days and thirty new songs later I figured, 'So what am I supposed to do now?'" Ghost Light is what he was supposed to do. A Perfect Day opens the CD with fiddler extraordinaire Stuart Duncan kicking off the song to a banquet of remembrance. This Road finds a returning veteran watching the transformation of his community. She Just Dances contemplates a one-year-old discovering that instinctive, feral response to music. And Big Day reminds us of McCutcheon's ability to observe, think, and rock all at once. One of the most moving songs of the collection, The Machine, follows. McCutcheon was a long-time resident of Charlottesville, VA and he follows the events there of this last summer through the eyes of an aged World War II veteran. Duncan's fiddle soars while singers Kathy Mattea and Tim O'Brien anchor the memorable chorus. The title track that follows is a chamber folk tour-de-force. The rest of the recording finds one of author Wendell Berry's most memorable characters facing the future in Burley Coulter at the Bank, Billy's fate unearthed in Dark Side of This Town, an elderly man announces a surprising settling of his history in Story of Abe, and those "lost years" of Jesus imagined?with a twist?in Me and Jesus. The album closes with a newly-discovered Woody Guthrie fragment, When My Fight for Life Is Over, with lyrics completed and a melody added by McCutcheon, one of Guthrie's students and most obvious heirs. Coming on the heels of Trolling for Dreams, the most well-reviewed album of McCutcheon's career, one could reasonably expect a less fully-realized collection than Ghost Light, especially given its short gestation. But listeners have come to expect the unexpected from John McCutcheon. As always, the musicianship is stellar, the production pristine, and the songwriting is taut and muscular. Another triumph for one of folk music's most dependable and accomplished musicians.