Singer-songwriter James McCarthy to present the music of John Denver at The Venue Friday

Jamie Winpenny

DOWNTOWN — Honolulu singer-songwriter James McCarthy will perform tonight at The Venue in Chinatown, paying homage to John Denver with a night of music and stories, guest players, and McCarthy’s own style of connecting with an audience. Presented by Tim Bostock Productions, the night will also serve as a birthday celebration for Bostock’s wife Mel.

Although the concert will feature the music of John Denver, McCarthy is quick to point out that he will be interpreting Denver’s music, rather than trying to replicate it.

“I won’t be doing a John Denver imitation,” says McCarthy. “I’d look silly in a blond, Prince Valiant wig. Also, I’m six-foot-five.”

Many have made light of Denver’s saccharine sound, of his white-bread image. But McCarthy, a studied musician and performer, is aware of the uncanny nuance of Denver’s work and is eager to present it. “He had an incredible melodic sense,” McCarthy opines. “He did a lot with three chords that no one else at the time was doing.”

John Denver was part of a group of musicians including James Taylor, Paul Simon, and Cat Stevens that helped bring campfire folk music into the American mainstream. McCarthy, who has seen Denver perform many times, marvels at the fact that Denver embodied the DIY spirit that so many fledgling bands today wear as a badge of honor.

“He would show up in a town, find a place to perform, and sell his records out of the back of his vehicle.”

McCarthy is hopeful for a night of audience interaction, and welcomes the audience to sing along. “As long as they’re singing the same songs I am,” he smiles.

The evening will also feature the work of other songwriters of the time, to provide context and to mix it up some. Guest players joining McCarthy will include Geoffrey Red on bass, and renowned banjo player Paul Sato. The Bostocks’ daughter Leilani will be making her professional stage debut as a singer, as well.

Says Paul Sato, “This is one of the most unique musical events I’ve ever been involved with, because it celebrates the music of just a single artist.”

[Editor’s Note: Jamie Winpenny plays in Doolin Rakes with James McCarthy]

Friday, May 27
The Venue
1144 Bethel Street
8:00 p.m.